Published Thursday, 09 August 2012
There have been nine complaints about mixed wardsin the Northern Trust since 07. (© UTV)
A report has said that, in wards across greater Belfast, elderly women are often uncomfortable when asked to share a mixed-sex ward.
The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority is calling for regional policy on mixed wards, after noting that there is zero tolerance of mixed gender care in the southern and western health trusts.
RQIA chief executive Glenn Houston said, "While these trusts reported that this happens only where single accommodation is not available, RQIA is calling on the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to develop a clear regional policy statement on care in mixed gender accommodation."
He said the Public Health Agency and Health and Social Care Board should consider unintended consequences on the quality of patient experience when improving performance targets.
There is currently no regional policy on mixed-sex wards, and patients, relatives and carers recorded that it has a significant impact on maintaining their privacy and dignity while in hospital.
RQIA examined current practice in hospitals across Northern Ireland's five health and social care trusts.
For some hospitals, their layout makes it difficult to ensure privacy, while for others the pressure of patients being admitted from emergency departments can force men and women to be housed together until more suitable accommodation is found.
The report found in the majority of cases where mixed gender accommodation was being provided, it was being appropriately managed, and there was good support from the senior nursing staff and good liaison with patient flow managers in the Belfast and Northern trusts.
Senior managers in the South Eastern Trust said they were doing all within their power to manage mixed gender occurrences to ensure the privacy and dignity of patients. However, those were not always resolved within reasonable timescales; patients were not being transferred into uni-gender accommodation within 24 hours, in line with locally developed trust policies.
The Belfast Trust was unable to provide specific information on complaints about mixed gender accommodation, citing coding anomalies in their complaints database.
The Northern Trust reported that since 2007 nine complaints were recorded in respect of patients having to be accommodated in mixed gender bays. The South Eastern Trust recorded a total of six complaints within the same timeframe.