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Providing Same Sex Accommodation

The Department of Health announced a package of measures to 'all but eliminate mixed-sex accommodation' by 2010. These included:

  • funding to support improvements and adjustments to hospital accommodation providing information and guidance to hospital staff, patients and the public.
  • introducing rigorous measures so that the Department can see how hospitals are progressing against the goal.

What do we mean by ‘mixed sex’ and ‘same sex’ accommodation?

Mixed sex accommodation is where men and women have to share sleeping areas or toilet and washing facilities.

Same sex accommodation is where sleeping areas and toilet and washing facilities are separate and designated as either men-only or women-only.

Same sex accommodation can be provided in:

  • same sex wards, where the whole ward is occupied by men or women only
  • single rooms, or mixed wards, where men and women are in separate bays or rooms

Toilet and washing facilities should be easily accessible and either inside or next to the ward, bay or room. Patients should not need to go through sleeping areas or toilet and washing facilities used by the opposite sex to access their own.

Why is same sex accommodation so important?

Patients tell us that being in mixed sex accommodation compromises their privacy and dignity at a time when they are already feeling vulnerable. The most common concerns include physical exposure, being in an embarrassing or threatening situation, noise and others hearing conversations about their condition.

Women and elderly women in particular, are most likely to worry about being in mixed sex accommodation, although male patients also say that they feel reluctant to talk openly and find it embarrassing to be in a mixed sex setting. Some patients are also strongly opposed to mixed-sex accommodation for cultural or religious reasons.

The NHS Constitution states that all patients have the right to privacy and to be treated with dignity and respect. Providing same sex accommodation is an effective way of helping to achieve this goal and of giving all patients the best possible experience while they are in hospital.

Is mixed sex accommodation ever acceptable?

In some situations there is no alternative to men and women sharing accommodation. This includes circumstances where patients need urgent, highly specialised care. When making this decision, staff will ensure it is in the interests of all patients affected and aim to move patients into same sex accommodation as quickly as possible.

Compliance in delivering the same sex accommodation programme

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is pleased to announce that it is compliant in delivering same sex accommodation as at February 2010, one month ahead of schedule. A project team including nursing, technical and procurement staff, plus patient representatives, worked tirelessly to deliver the project on time on budget and with minimum disruption. The most common improvement was the installation of separate bathrooms, toilets and showers, followed by the reorganization of wards to ensure bays were occupied by patients of one sex only.

Declaration of Compliance