The NHS is committed to making sure that all patients receive high-quality care that is safe, effective and focused on their needs. The NHS Constitution states that all patients have the right to privacy and to be treated with dignity and respect. We believe that 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.
Why is same-sex accommodation so important?
It is clear from what patients tell us that being in mixed-sex accommodation can compromise their privacy and dignity at a time when they may already be feeling vulnerable. The most common concerns include physical exposure, being in an embarrassing or threatening situation, noise, and the possibility of other patients overhearing 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.
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 specific sleeping areas and toilet and washing facilities are 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
mixed wards, where men and women are in separate bays or rooms.
Toilet and washing facilities should be easily accessible and, ideally, 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.
Self Declaration Statement Regarding Same Sex Accommodation - March 2012
Delivering Single Sex Accommodation – Declaration of Compliance
‘The Trust Board of Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust confirms that mixed sex accommodation has been eliminated at Darent Valley Hospital, except where it is in the overall best interest of the patient, or reflects their personal choice.
We have the necessary facilities, resources and culture to ensure that patients who are admitted to our hospitals will only share the room where they sleep with members of the same sex, and same sex toilets and bathrooms will be close to their bed area. Sharing with members of the opposite sex will only happen where clinically necessary (for example where patients need specialist equipment such as in the cardiac ward or are admitted in an emergency to the clinical decisions unit), or where patients actively choose to share.
If our care should fall short of the required standard, we will report it. We will also set up an audit mechanism to make sure that we do not misclassify any of our reports. We have published the results of that audit here, you can also view the Trust's policy
Director of Nursing
What does this mean for our patients?
Maternity and gynaecology wards
These wards are all single sex wards.
Adult medical and surgical and inpatient wards
In adult medical and surgical inpatient wards, the rooms (bays) where patients sleep are always single sex, however the wards themselves are mixed sex.
Toilets or bathrooms will be single sex, and will be close to the bed area. Patients may have to cross a ward corridor to reach the bathroom, but should not have to walk through opposite-sex areas.
There are also several single rooms on every ward. These are normally prioritised for patients who are infectious, or are prone to infection. In addition they are used for patients who are very sick indeed or who have a greater need of privacy.
Patients may share some communal spaces on the ward (eg dayrooms, dining areas).
Emergency assessment units (short stay area, clinical decisions unit) and coronary care unit (chestnut ward)
Adaptations have been made to these units to virtually eliminate mixed sex accommodation and the situation has improved significantly. On occasions however clinical need and urgency will mean that patients need to share accommodation with patients of the opposite gender.
Where this occurs, it will be closely monitored, patient views will be sought and a plan made to improve the situation within 24 hours. The NHS will not turn patients away in an emergency just because a ‘right sex’ bed is not immediately available.
Daycare, endoscopy, radiology and other outpatient facilities
The Trust will endeavour to provide single sex accommodation in these areas, however this cannot always be guaranteed. However where possible sessions will be organised on a single sex basis (e.g. in endoscopy).
If patients need to be undressed or wear a hospital gown, or undergo any intimate procedure, staff will do their utmost to offer single sex facilities and to ensure patients’ dignity and privacy. The Trust will work to improve these facilities over the next two years.
It is accepted that for babies and small children, segregation by age and development stage can be more important than single sex accommodation. In addition, parents of either sex are welcome to stay on the ward with their child. Once early teenage years are reached privacy becomes more important and staff on the children’s ward will endeavour to provide suitable single sex accommodation for children in this older age group.
Intensive care and high dependency unit
These areas are currently mixed sex, however staff will ensure patients will receive dignified care which respects privacy and modesty, through the use of screens, curtains and supervision at visiting times.
Both men and women can visit during visiting hours in all areas. Visiting hours are agreed for each clinical area and regular feedback obtained to ensure they balance the needs for patients and relatives and friends. In exceptional circumstances, and at the discretion of the ward sister, visiting may be allowed outside these hours.
Male and female staff care for all patients. Where a patient requests it, or special circumstances apply, matrons will be attempt to provide ‘same sex’ staff though this may not always be possible.