Single sex accommodation FAQs

What is mixed - sex accommodation?

Mixed-sex accommodation is where patients of the opposite sex have to share sleeping accommodation, toilets or washing facilities. 

What is single - sex accommodation?

Single - sex accommodation means:

A ward that's occupied only by men or only by women, and has its own toilet and washing facilities single rooms with single-sex toilet and washing facilities (preferably en-suite) multi-bed bays or rooms occupied solely by men or by women, with their own same-sex toilet and washing facilities. You shouldn’t have to pass through opposite-sex accommodation, toilets or washing facilities to gain access to your own facilities or to access other hospital services.

Same sex accommodation

How is the NHS planning to eliminate mixed - sex accommodation?

In January 2009, the NHS announced a package of measures designed to eliminate mixed-sex accommodation. These include:

  • funding to support improvements and adjustments to hospital accommodation;
  • information and guidance for hospital staff, patients and the public;
  • an improvement team for hospitals that need extra support; and
  • robust performance objectives for hospitals.

What happens if I am placed in mixed - sex accommodation? 

If men and women have to be put in the same accommodation, they will be separated as soon as possible. Until that time, staff will take extra care to safeguard privacy, particularly in sleeping and sanitary areas. 

You, your relatives and your carers will be told why the situation has occurred, what is being done to address it and who is dealing with it. You will be told when it is likely to be resolved. If you find yourself in this situation, you are able to make a complaint to the trust.

Can I still expect single - sex accommodation if there is a pandemic?

There are no exemptions from the need to provide high standards of privacy and dignity. This applies to all areas, regardless of the admission route (planned or emergency admission) or the local pressure on beds. However, there will be some exceptional circumstances in which providing fast, effective care for the patient will take priority over providing same-sex accommodation. The NHS will never turn someone away because a bed in same-sex accommodation is not available.

What about unit's for children and young people?

The need to ensure high standards of privacy and dignity applies to all areas in a hospital, including children’s and young people’s units. However, lots of children and young people will be more concerned about sharing with other people of their own age than about whether they’re sharing with members of the opposite sex. Children and young people should always be given the choice. Toilet and washing facilities for children and young people don’t need to be same-sex, as long as they accommodate only one patient at a time and can be locked by the patient (with an external override for emergency use only).

What should I expect in a young adults unit?

Young adult units provide specialised care for adults aged 16 to 25. The need to ensure high standards of privacy and dignity applies to all areas in a hospital, including children’s and young people’s units. However, many children and young people are more concerned about sharing with people their own age than with members of the single sex. Children and young people should always be given the choice, and instances of mixed-sex accommodation should be in the best interests of all the patients sharing. 
Toilet and washing facilities for children and young people don’t need to be same-sex, as long as they accommodate only one patient at a time and can be locked by the patient (with an external override for emergency use only). Shared toilet and washing facilities should be same-sex.

Why can't we just have same - sex wards?

Patients often benefit from being treated in the same area as other patients with similar clinical conditions, so that they can be treated by the appropriate specialist staff. This means that wards are often arranged by speciality rather than gender. However, men and women can still be segregated if they are placed in separate bays within the ward. This allows patients to preserve their privacy and dignity, while accessing the highest standards of care.

Will access to treatment be delayed due to the single - sex accommodation initiative?

The aim is to provide rapid, high-quality care in the best possible environment, without having to choose between speed and quality. The NHS is committed to maintaining its progress in improving quality of care. On the whole, patients accept that sometimes the need to be admitted and treated will take precedence over segregation.

Will I be turned away if no single - sex accommodation is available?

No. The priority will always be to admit patients and treat them promptly. But staff will be expected to take extra care to safeguard your privacy and to move you into same-sex accommodation as quickly as possible.

Will staff who look after me be of the same sex?

You will be cared for and treated by the staff with the most appropriate skills and training, and not necessarily by someone of the same sex. If you have concerns, talk to the staff providing your care.

What about visitors? - During visiting hours, visitors of both sexes may be present within the ward. It's important that patients are able to spend time with friends and family while in hospital.

Is mixed - sex accommodation ever ok?

Most people accept that providing fast, effective patient care is sometimes more important than providing same-sex accommodation. This may include situations where patients need urgent, highly specialised or high-tech care. Where mixing occurs, it must be in the interest of all the patients affected.

What is a bay?

A bay is a sleeping area that is enclosed on three sides with solid walls. The fourth side may be open or partially closed. Bays typically consist of four to six beds each.

A hospital ward can be made up of a number of bays. This is the type of accommodation most patients will see in a modern English hospital.
The use of curtains between bays is not acceptable as they offer little privacy and do not provide a safe and secure environment.

How to complain about hospital accommodation

If you're unhappy with your location on a ward, report your situation to a member of staff within the ward, contact the local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) or tell a family member or carer.

 

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