A review of National Health Service guidelines that allow hospitals to put patients on mixed-sex wards has been ordered by Patricia Hewitt.
The Secretary of State for Health is said to have been "deeply moved" by the diaries of Pat Balsom, a terminally ill cancer patient placed on a ward with men.
But Ms Hewitt's claim that 99 per cent of NHS trusts provide single-sex sleeping accommodation has been challenged by the testimony of dozens of patients who have come forward with stories similar to those of Ms Balsom.
Now Ms Hewitt has asked health bosses to check again to see just how many patients are being placed on mixed-sex wards. The directors of England's 10 Strategic Health Authorities have been told to report back within two weeks.
She has also asked officials to review the guidelines that permit hospitals to use mixed-sex wards for urgent care.
Professor Sir George Alberti, the "A&E tsar", said it was right that patients needing intensive care be accommodated regardless of their gender.
"Hospitals will not turn patients away because they cannot provide a bed alongside other patients of the same gender," he said.
"That would effectively be creating separate waiting lists for men and women. It is in a patient's best interests that hospitals continue to give top priority to clinical care in these areas."
Reaction: What the experts said about Pat Balsom's experience
'Wards should be single sex. We gave the NHS money to divide old wards'
Patricia Hewitt Secretary Of State For Health
'This is a broken promise. Being in hospital is stressful'
Katherine Murphy The Patients Association
'It's shocking to see patients exposed to sexual harassment and even assault'
Paul Farmer Chief Executive, Mind
'Mixed-sex wards are an affront to human dignity'
Jonathan Ellis Help The Aged
'Women's safety is at risk. They feel uncomfortable and threatened'
Moira Fraser Mental Health FoundationReuse content