16/08/2010

Government 'To Axe Mixed-Sex Hospital Wards'

Mixed-sex hospital wards are to be axed in England by the end of the year, the government has announced.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that he had repeatedly expressed "deep frustration" that the practice had not been stopped and said: "Eliminating mixed-sex accommodation is in patients' best interests."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg confirmed that the Health Secretary will make a detailed announcement about the policy on Tuesday.

Mr Lansley is expected to announce that patients in English hospitals will be able to stay in single-sex wards in every department, with the exceptions of intensive care and Accident and Emergency.

Currently, one in ten wards in England are mixed-sex.

However, patients' groups have questioned whether it is achievable. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Catherine Murphy of the Patients Association, said: "Given that each incoming secretary of state, and there have been a lot, and every new prime minister has made this same pledge since 1997, we will wait to see if this time it really is more than just rhetoric.

"At a time when we know that there are huge savings that have to be made in the health service, it is hard to see how hospitals are going to find the money for this."

The previous Labour government had pledged to introduce single-sex wards, but it was never introduced. In 2008, health minister Lord Darzi said that the introduction of single-sex wards was an "aspiration that cannot be met".

Commenting on the coalition government's announcement, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said that 95% of hospitals already provide single sex accommodation and that the government was trying to claim credit for something that Labour has done.

(KMc/GK)

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