Same sex accommodation

People can often feel vulnerable in hospital and being cared for in accommodation with people of the opposite sex can be deeply upsetting and unsettling.

Everyone working in the NHS has a vital part to play in achieving the goal of eliminating mixed-sex accommodation and ensuring patients feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible during their stay on a ward.

At South Tees, we are committed to making sure all patients receive high-quality care that is safe, effective and focused on their needs. Patients have the right to privacy and to be treated with dignity and respect and 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.

Women – elderly women in particular – are most likely to worry about being in mixed-sex accommodation, although male patients also say that they feel reluctant to talk openly and find it embarrassing to be in a mixed-sex setting. Some patients are also strongly opposed to mixed-sex accommodation for cultural or religious reasons.

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.