Mixing the Sexes

News from Britain: if you’re a gal in hospital, the guy in the next bed won’t be a guy any more.

The government will announce that it is to end the “indignity” of mixed-sex hospital wards in England by the end of the year, it has been reported.

The Daily Telegraph said health secretary Andrew Lansley is to declare that men and women sharing wards is to be ended in all but accident and emergency and intensive care units by the end of the year.


Mr Lansley confirmed last night that he would be making a statement on the subject “shortly”, saying that getting rid of mixed-sex wards was in the best interests of patients.

“I have made clear repeatedly my deep frustration at the fact that mixed sex accommodation has not been eliminated from the NHS,” he said.

“Eliminating mixed sex accommodation is in patients’ best interests, and I made clear the priority I attach to it in the revised operating framework published in June. I will have more to say on this shortly.”

If he succeeds he will achieve a goal which eluded Labour ministers for over a decade.

Oddly, I never realized hospitals in Britain had mixed-sex ward rooms: I had just assumed they were (mostly) segregated by sex, as they are here in Canada.

In any case, I’ve always had a bit of a problem from a purely Emergency Charge Nurse Clinical Care Leader/logistical/practical point of view with sex-segregating patient beds. I don’t know how often I’ve had people rotting in ED stretchers for days at a time, while there were four or five empty beds on 5 North or somewhere, only they were “male” beds or “female” beds, and there weren’t any patients of the appropriate gender who could go up. In my scheme of things, the Emergency Department is never the right place for admitted patients, and there is no such thing as an “inappropriate” bed based on a person’s sex. If there are beds, get the patients up, regardless of sex.

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  1. #1 by Boris on Saturday 21 August 2010 - 1126

    Last year in my few weeks in hospital I usually had only male wardmates but occassionally there would be a female in the next bed because, well, it was available. I think the more discomforting thing was being shipped to the cardiac ward post-op because there were no free beds in general surgery. The nurses were great, but patients recovering from bypass surgery I suppose are a little different than some like me who who ended up suffering some puzzling complications from minor surgery: “We don’t usually get people like you here”… My surgeons also had to make a special trip to my ward to see me to communicate their contradicting views on my condition.

  2. #2 by Zoe on Wednesday 25 August 2010 - 2100

    We stopped segregating rooms several years ago, for exactly the reasons you posted…patients were bouncing around the ER for days waiting for a “female” or “male” bed to open up. The wards were bouncing patients around the unit trying to “create” a gender specific room.

    Now, when a bed becomes available, the most appropriate patient goes to that room, regardless of gender. Most patients don’t have an issue with it. The odd one that does, we try our best to accommodate. Usually, people are just happy to be out of the ER, they’ll take the first bed that opens up.

    Our focus lately, in an effort to reduce our hospital-acquired c-diff infections, is to cohort patients with similar symptoms ie: MRSA patients all together, c-diff pts all in one room etc.

  3. #3 by Cartoon Character on Saturday 28 August 2010 - 1640

    Actually, here in BC, a lot of the hospital will “mix” a ward….case in point – my mom had a hip replacement earlier this year and she had several male roomies. It did not create any major problems.

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