BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Nurses reject mixed ward defence
Hospital ward
Nurses have voted to oppose mixed sex wards despite hearing that they can speed up patients' recovery and cut waiting times.

Delegates at the Royal College of Nursing annual congress in Harrogate were unimpressed by the claim that being treated alongside the opposite sex could actually improve the care of some patients.

Both Labour and the Tories have pledged to scrap mixed sex wards on the grounds that they are degrading to some patients.

However, Clive Mortimore, a nurse at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, put forward a motion saying mixed wards could clinically benefit patients.

He told the congress: "We want to get patients into the most specialised care they can get.

"At the moment, we can have two single sex wards treating medical patients, where there is a mix of cardiac and renal and other patients.

"If you had a renal ward and a cardiac ward, with a mix of men and women, the nurses with the relevant expertise and specialism would be able to look after the patients with the same problems.

Protect dignity

"If we can protect their dignity by ensuring they have access to separate toilets and washing facilities, then the patients will be as well off as they would be in single sex wards.

And he added: "Patients recover faster with specialised care, and mixed sex wards can increase sociability, which we all like."

All-women or all-men bays within mixed sex wards could also ensure patients' dignity was preserved, Mr Mortimore said.

Mixed sex wards may be fine for some people, but not if you are a patient in a vulnerable position

Frances Houghton, nurse
And nurses would get broader experience by working on wards where both men and women were being cared for.

And he quoted his 64-year-old mother, who had been treated on a gynaecological ward, obviously single sex, who told him: "When I was well enough to go down to the day room, how good it was to talk to some of the nice gents and how nice the time passed.

"They helped lift my spirits, compared with the time I was on the ward with all women."

But delegates at the RCN conference in Harrogate voted two to one against the resolution.

Frances Houghton, from the West Midlands said: "My elderly mother was in a mixed sex ward.

"A man from another bay tried to get into her bed. We had a joke about it but the reality was that it left her upset and afraid and very concerned about the night period.

"Mixed sex wards may be fine for some people, but not if you are a patient in a vulnerable position."

Rod Nisbet, from Scotland, said: "None of the patients' groups wants mixed sex wards. "They all want single sex wards. This is not about patient care - this is about lack of resources for single sex wards."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories