End of mixed-sex wards in sight

Men and women will no longer have to share hospital wards or bathrooms from next year, but it means major building works at older hospitals in the region.

Men and women will no longer have to share hospital wards or bathrooms from next year, but it means major building works at older hospitals in the region.

The 30-year-old Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn will have to spend �657,000 on major work, while the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, built around the same time, also has work to do.

The N&N and Norfolk's community hospitals and mental hospitals already meet the government standards, which come in on April 1 next year.

The new rules, which say male and female patients must not share wards, toilets or bathrooms, even in emergency areas, are designed to spare patients embarrassment and increase privacy and dignity.

The QEH does not meet the guidelines on any wards except for maternity - even gynaecology has a mixed-sex surgical assessment unit.

Plans have been drawn up to divide each ward into two bays which will be a separated by a wall between the two. There will be separate bathroom facilities, and at least 24 toilets and bathrooms will have to be put in across the hospital. Where there are two wards for the same purpose, such as medicine for the elderly, one will be dedicated for men and one for women.

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But there have been concerns about spending so much money on a 30-year-old hospital which is nearing the end of its life. A bid has been

put in for government funding from a pot of �10m for the east of England.

At Tuesday's NHS Norfolk board meeting, non-executive director Luc D'Iorio said: "It is showing its age. This kind of expenditure to bring it to what is now the norm makes me think we have to have a plan for

the medium-term rather than just spending half a million here and there."

Noel Scanlon, deputy chief executive of the QEH, said after the meeting: "The nature of our problem is that we have a 30-year-old building which is not really amenable to major modification.

"If we were in a position of replacing the hospital in a short space of time you could see the logic in the argument, but we are not, and we have to meet the guidance by April 1 next year."

The JPH has a new single-sex orthopaedic ward. Other wards have been divided into single-sex bays separated by walls. It is planning to put single-sex bays in the emergency admission unit, but could not say how much the work would cost.

Nick Coveney, director of nursing and patient services, said: "We are planning to develop new areas with more single rooms with en-suite facilities and will be opening a new ward in the spring with eight single en-suite rooms and single-sex four-bedded bays, all of which will have dedicated single-sex bathroom facilities."

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