Same sex accommodation

Privacy, dignity and same-sex accommodation

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.

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
• single rooms, or
• 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.

Is mixed-sex accommodation ever acceptable?

Most people accept that in some situations there is no alternative to men and women sharing accommodation. This includes situations where patients need urgent, highly specialised or high-tech care. When making this decision, staff must make sure that it is in the interests of all patients affected, and work to move patients into same-sex accommodation as quickly as possible.

The same-sex accommodation programme

In January 2009, the Department of Health announced a package of measures designed to ‘all but eliminate mixed-sex accommodation’ by 2010. These include:

• dedicated funding to support improvements and adjustments to hospital accommodation
• providing information and guidance to hospital staff, patients and the public
• sending an improvement team to hospitals that need extra support, and
• introducing rigorous measures so that the Department can see how hospitals are progressing against the goal.

Click  here for our Declaration on Same Sex Accommodation.