Posted by: Witch Doctor | January 24, 2009

Mixed sex wards


When Dr Sixties Sideburns, and Dr Flower Power were junior house officers, there were no mixed sex wards.

None at all.

Very, very occasionally though, eg during a ‘flu epidemic, a two or four bedded side ward on a female floor may have been used for male patients. But the wards were effectively separate although the nursing staff was shared.

At that time too there were only a few male nurses. They were always placed in male wards although female nurses were placed  in either male and female wards.

That was just the way it was.

No-one questioned this arrangement. It seemed the obvious way to do things.

Dr Sixties Sideburn and Dr Flower Power can both remember when The Coronary Care Unit opened in their hospital. This was the first to open in their city and it was considered to be The Gold Standard at that time. A GP could organise that any patient with chest pain could be taken by ambulance directly to the door of CCU. They were immediately admitted to a single room for assessment, monitoring and if necessary treatment given urgently. Dr Sixties Sideburns and Dr Flower Power were not allowed to work in CCU as Junior House Officers. Patients were always looked after by the more experienced SHOs and Registrars, in addition to either a Senior Registrar who had wide experience in cardiology, or a consultant physician in general medicine who had a special interest in cardiology.

Each patient could be seen through the glass walls of each room from the nursing station. They watched the ECG’s of each patient on the screens there. The nursing station was never left unattended and there were adequate numbers of staff to attend to the patients’ needs.

The nursing staff who worked in the unit had all been experienced sisters, who up till then had been caring for patients in the wards with myocardial infarction.

The nursing was good.

The doctoring was good.

The teamwork was good.

The leadership was understated, but it was there.

There was not a manager in site.

It worked well.

So, males and females both were admitted to the unit but they all had a single room. Nevertheless, the precedent was set. Males and females were admitted to the same ward, albeit to single bedded units.

No one complained because it was sensible and nobody felt there was any question of embarrassment or loss of dignity.

This was shortly followed by the opening of the first Intensive Care Unit in the hospital.

In this case, though, male and female beds were in an open ward. The beds were far apart. The patients were unconscious.

No one complained because it was sensible and nobody felt there was any question of embarrassment or loss of dignity.

Some years later………

Enter managers.

Managers with budgets.

Modern managers. Mangers who had been marinated in the business ethic. Managers who saw the precedent had been set in these specialist units.

Shared sex wards.

What’s wrong with that?

We’re already doing it.

Society is liberated. Men and women are equal so they were herded in together. No one asked the patients if this was OK. No one asked whether they felt embarrassed or lost their dignity.

No one asked them if shared sex wards was A Good Patient Experience.

Beds were lost and wards were closed for good.

Good for budgets. Good for promotion prospects.

Some years later……….

Now they want to change it back again to the way it was in the olden days.

It can’t be done, says Lord Darzi.


“Last year, Health Minister Lord Darzi suggested that the pledge would never be met.

‘The only way we are going to have single-sex wards in the NHS is to build the whole of the NHS into single rooms.

‘It is not achievable in transforming a ward into a single-sex ward.’

Countries such as Thailand offer 100 per cent single-sex wards. But Lord Darzi said it was an ‘ aspiration that cannot be met’. “

Lord Darzi, don’t be negative. Just tell Mr Johnson we need more beds. Just tell him that 100% bed occupancy is a travesty both for patients and staff. Just tell him that many antibiotic resistant organisms regard crammed wards and overworked staff an ecological treasure trove.

But will you tell him?

Or is that kind of leadership not an option?

redapple.jpg a red apple ……………………

The Witch Doctor – Link to a random page





Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: