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Delivering same-sex accommodation

We are proud to confirm that mixed sex accommodation has been virtually eliminated in our hospital.

   Read our declaration of compliance

The Department of Health has committed to eradicating mixed sex accommodation throughout the NHS by 30 June 2009 by launching its 'Same-Sex Accommodation: Your Privacy, Our Responsibility' initiative in January 2009 to provide clearer guidance and support for hospitals. Its aim is to all but eliminate the use of mixed-sex accommodation in hospitals, for all patients, at every stage in their journey through care. This means a substantial reduction in the number of patients who share sleeping or sanitary accommodation with members of the opposite sex.

For Papworth Hospital, this means that we as an organisation are committed to delivering on this agenda and to embed this into day to day practice. We have begun a programme of work throughout the hospital to improve privacy and dignity in our wards, out-patient and day case areas. This includes introducing doors on patient bays, designating male and female bathrooms and, in some areas, building new bathroom facilities. We have also completed a project to significantly improve the facilities on the Cystic Fibrosis Unit.

This work is being supported financially by the Department of Health through a privacy and dignity challenge fund.

What are patients’ attitudes to mixed-sex accommodation?

Although the patients who receive care at Papworth Hospital have always responded positively when asked about privacy and dignity through in-patient surveys, at a national level mixed sex accommodation is an issue of particular concern among women, older people and people from ethnic minorities. Whilst cleanliness, infection control and staff attitudes are generally seen as more important, for many people the prospect of sharing sleeping accommodation and toilet facilities with the opposite sex is distressing. In the 2008 Care Quality Commission Inpatient Survey, 32% of respondents said they did mind sharing a sleeping area with patients of the opposite sex.

There is tolerance for the use of mixed sex accommodation in exceptional situations created by clinical need or demand on resources. Patients and public feel efficient and effective treatment is the ultimate priority.

There is general agreement that, for elective and pre-arranged admissions, patients should be warned in advance if there is a possibility that they may encounter mixed-sex accommodation (results from qualitative research, April 2009).

Embedding a “single-sex” culture

The Department of Health’s goal is that single-sex accommodation should be standard for all patients, in all hospitals, at all stages of care. Any incident of mixed-sex accommodation is seen as an exception to the rule and should be rectified as quickly as possible.

In many hospitals, this standard already operates - embedded within the culture. Where it does not, it is the responsibility of trust boards and nursing leaders to change the culture by setting standards and expectations, and challenging tolerance of mixed sex accommodation at every level within the hospital.


 Papworth DSSA Action Plan - February 2012


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