HC Deb 06 August 1976 vol 916 cc1172-3W
Mr. Cyril Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards mixed sex wards in hospitals; and if he will discourage the growing practice of providing such wards.

Dr. Owen

Over recent years hospital accommodation has deliberately been designed to enable the most flexible use to be made of the available beds by providing these in separate multi-bed bays each of which may be occupied by men or women only. In older hospitals, where increasing demands occasion a similar need for flexibility of bed use, improvised arrangements for segregation within a ward area may sometimes be necessary. As a general principle however I would expect wherever such an arrangement is found to be operationally desirable to help meet the demands placed upon a hospital, that every effort is made to ensure that the accommodation for male and female patients is provided in such a way as to preserve the dignity of the individual and ensure an acceptable degree of privacy. It should also be part of the general policy of managing wards in which both male and female patients are accommodated that every patient is given prior notice of such arrangements and that a patient who is not prepared to accept them should wherever possible be offered alternative accommodation. Subject to these general principles I consider that this particular aspect of patient care is essentially a matter for local decision.