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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Elderly stuck in mixed-sex wards
Few elderly people are now treated in same-sex wards
The government has failed to meet its target of abolishing mixed-sex hospital wards by April 2004.

The Labour Party promised three years ago to close all of the so-called Nightingale wards.

But Health Service Journal says 84 such wards still exist. Of these, 27 still need plans for refurbishment approved.

The Department of Health said plans were underway to close existing wards. It said problems at three trusts were being dealt with.

The government made 120m available after the last election to close and modernise these same-sex wards.

We are disappointed that the government has failed to keep its promise to eliminate same sex wards
Age Concern
The large wards have long been criticised because patients were forced to share facilities with members of the opposite sex.

Medical staff have also campaigned to get them closed. Many say they find it difficult to discuss highly sensitive issues with patients in such large open wards.

Experiencing problems

According to Health Service Journal, three NHS trusts have experienced particular problems trying to meet the government's target to close Nightingale wards.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has seven such wards still in place.

United Bristol Healthcare Trust NHS Trust says it has one Nightingale ward. This is located at Bristol General Hospital, which is scheduled to close.

South Liverpool Primary Care Trust has drawn up plans to replace two such wards at Sir Alfred Jones Memorial Hospital in Garston.

Health Minister John Hutton said improvements were being made.

"In 2001, there were 366 Nightingale wards for older people in use across the NHS.

"After 120m of central investment, 97% have now been eliminated or will be replaced when ongoing capital schemes have been completed.

"We are aware of the situation in the three trusts which still have Nightingale wards, and are working hard with the local Strategic Health Authorities to eliminate them as soon as possible."

However, Health Service Journal claims at least another eight trusts are also experiencing problems.

These are St Marty's Hospital in Paddington, Leeds General Infirmary, Pembury Hospital in Kent, Epsom and St Helier, Ipswich, Hammersmith and Hillingdon hospitals.

A spokesman for Age Concern said: "We are disappointed that the government has failed to keep its promise to eliminate same sex wards by April 2004," a spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

"Many older people find these wards intrusive and inappropriate and are not comfortable with them.

"The government must make it a priority to get rid of these wards altogether."

Mixed sex wards slow to go
22 Nov 01  |  Health
NHS 'getting better'
09 May 03  |  Health

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