Mixed-sex wards must go, says patients' charter

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The Independent Online
Mixed-sex hospital wards are to be phased out of the National Health Service, and patients will have the right to request a bed on a single-sex ward under a new version of the Patient's Charter to be launched today, writes Liz Hunt.

The charter will instruct hospitals to inform patients before they are admitted about the availability of beds on single-sex wards. In addition, separate lavatory facilities will have to be provided on existing mixed-sex wards. The move signals a reversal of a move to mixed-sex wards which began in the late Seventies and early Eighties.

It follows widespread complaints and lobbying, particularly from women distressed at finding themselves in beds alongside male patients and having to share shower and toilet facilities with them.

A survey of hospital patients by the Patients' Association to be published today found that 75 per cent of respondents were against mixed-sex wards but many felt powerless to complain. Few hospitals or health authorities questioned by the association hada policy on mixed-sex wards.

The association yesterday welcomed the new charter inclusion but said it did not go far enough. Dr Patricia Wilkie, its chairman, said: ``This is a step in the right direction and it will certainly influence hospitals which have been thinking about goingdown this road on the grounds of cost.''