Same sex wards by end of the year

MEN and women will soon be treated separately in every ward and department in the county's hospitals as a new same sex policy will be implemented before the end of the year.

MEN and women will soon be treated separately in every ward and department in the county's hospitals as a new same sex policy will be implemented before the end of the year.

Health bosses in Norfolk have been working on eliminating mixed sex accommodation and to “improve dignity and privacy” for patients this will soon come into force.

Currently the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston do not have mixed sex wards but some emergency areas are shared.

They are both working towards eliminating mixed sex areas before the end of the year.

Hospitals which care for mentally ill patient, and come under the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust, do not have any mixed sex accommodation.

A quality team from NHS Norfolk visited each healthcare provider to assess their compliance to same sex accommodation.

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NHS Norfolk through these visits, uncovered that both the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Norfolk Community Health and Care, the group that manages all community hospitals and services, too are not compliant, in addition to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.

Maureen Carson, chief nurse and director of women and children's health for NHS Norfolk, said: “There has been significant progress with our approach to eliminating mixed sex accommodation. Our focus is to give our patients a better experience while they are in hospital, ensuring that they are treated with compassion, with dignity and have their privacy protected.

“We expect full compliance for same sex accommodation will be in place by the end of 2009, well ahead of the national target date of March 2010.”

The JPH is currently working to “improve privacy and dignity further” and there is an action plan in place.

Nick Coveney, director of nursing and patient services at the JPUH, said “We know that being treated with privacy and dignity is a key aspect of patient experience and we have taken actions over the years to improve our same sex accommodation. Work has recently been completed to improve same sex sanitary facilities on the Adolescent Unit and at Lowestoft Hospital.”

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn has the most significant work to do to become compliant. Following a bid to the regional Strategic Health Authority �657,000 has been secured to refurbish the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn, a detailed proposal has been drawn up by the hospital, outlining expected costs, and a timeline to take the work forward.

A spokesman for Kings Lynn said: “We have been making progress on single sex accommodation and we are on track to reaching the set target.”

At a meeting of NHS Norfolk's board this week chairwoman Sheila Childerhouse said it was important that patients felt they had privacy and dignity when admitted to hospital.

“This is really, really good news,” she said. “Sharing a clinical area with a member of the opposite sex can cause great distress for patients.

“This policy is really progressing and it should not be long before it is in place.”

A spokesman for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “A&E departments are not included in the Department of Health's guidelines for single sex accommodation but emergency assessment units (EAU) are.

“In terms of our EAU, what we started doing last week for patients who are on the unit overnight is to place them in single sex bays, wherever possible. Given that it is an emergency unit, high dependency patients and patients requiring assessment may still be in a mixed sex areas.”

The Department of Health set up the Delivering Same Sex Accommodation (DSSA) programme earlier this year to eliminate mixed sex wards across the country by April 2010.