UK Government

Department of Health: NHS tackles mixed-sex accommodation

Press Release   •   Dec 15, 2009 10:58 GMT

The NHS is on track to virtually eliminate mixed-sex accommodation from hospitals across England, announced Health Minister Ann Keen today.

The announcement follows the publication of a Taskforce report:
‘Delivering same-sex accommodation – the story so far’. The report highlights that all trust improvement schemes supported by the Department of Health’s £100 million ‘Privacy and Dignity Fund’ will be completed by June 2010.

This means that sleeping in same-sex bays or wards and having access to same-sex toilets and bathrooms facilities is now the everyday experience of the overwhelming majority of NHS patients, at every stage in their journey through care.

All trusts are expected to provide same-sex accommodation and, by 2010, any trust that fails will be subject to financial sanctions.

Today’s report outlines the progress of the intensive drive set up by the Department in January and also builds on work outlined back in 1997, when the NHS was asked to eliminate mixed-sex accommodation from specific clinical departments in 95 per cent of trusts in England by 2002. That target was exceeded.

Since January, over 200 trusts have commissioned 1,157 schemes across nearly 400 sites.

Improvement works have included:

• over 2,300 new or refurbished toilets and bathrooms;
• 10,800 extra modesty curtains to ensure patient privacy within same-sex areas;
• over 14,000 new signs to help patients find same-sex facilities, such as the toilets or bathrooms;
• 960 other building projects such as women-only lounges, security doors and reglazing windows with frosted glass;
• almost 700 new bed management systems to get patients to the right bed on first admission; and
• over 1,200 education and training programmes.

These schemes are part of a wider programme of work on delivering same-sex accommodation which also saw new Improvement Support Teams set up to assist those trusts needing the most guidance and support. This included helping trusts understand their problem areas and supporting them in developing and implementing solutions.

Health Minister Ann Keen said:

“Back in January we announced that mixed-sex accommodation would no longer be tolerated in the NHS, unless clinically justified. Since then we have driven through intensive changes and the latest data shows the dramatic effect that this has had.

“The overwhelming majority of NHS patients now sleep in same-sex accommodation.  This is a significant achievement and will make a real difference to patients.

“These schemes are not just a quick fix and the transformations are not just focussed on the physical environment. The works span from building improvements and new management processes through to training and communication programmes. These all contribute to a patient’s experience of care and all serve to ensure that patients receive the privacy and dignity they deserve.

“We are also clear that any trust that fails to deliver same-sex accommodation, except where clinically justified, will be subject to financial sanctions.”

Keith Pearson and Kathryn Riddle, Joint Chairs of the Delivering Same-Sex Accommodation Taskforce added:

“Quality of patient care is a core principle of the NHS and the NHS Constitution makes it clear that privacy and dignity are fundamental rights.

“The activity and achievement on this intensive drive to eliminate mixed-sex accommodation has been immense and we have been privileged to see what can be delivered when patient groups, clinicians, managers, politicians, architects, designers and the public come together to put people’s privacy and dignity at the centre of their planning.”

Ends

Notes to Editors:

Please contact the Department of Health Newsdesk for more information on 020 7210 5221.

1. A full copy of the progress report ‘Delivering same-sex accommodation – the Story so Far’ is available from the Department of Health website.

2. We recognise that there are times when the need to treat and admit can override the need for complete segregation.  This might apply, for instance, with:
- A patient needing very high-tech care, with one-to-one nursing (e.g. ICU, HDU);
- A patient needing very specialised care, where one nurse might be caring for a small number of patients; or
- A patient needing very urgent care (e.g. rapid admission following heart attack).
Where mixing does occur, it must be justifiable for all the patients affected. There are no blanket exemptions for particular specialties and no exemptions at all from the need to provide high standards of privacy and dignity at all times.

3. In January 2009, Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced an intensive drive to ‘all but eliminate’ mixed sex accommodation and a packet of measures including:
- A £100 million Privacy and Dignity Fund to help trusts make swift adjustments to patient experience;
- Improvement teams to be set up to go into hospitals that need support during the process;
- A greater focus on measuring and improving patient experience of mixed sex accommodation; and
- Financial penalties for those hospitals where patients are treated in mixed sex accommodation – unless it can be clinically justified.

Contacts

NDS Enquiries
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department
ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk