THERE ARE ONLY THREE types of people I avoid sitting with, especially on long-haul flights. Those with colds, who think it’s okay to sniff, cough and spread their germs. The second is women with crying babies, and the third is anyone trying to detonate explosives hidden in their shoes.
I’m not alone, ask anyone and I guarantee they’ll be praying the seat isn’t taken by a bearded, runny nosed, baby-carrying woman, wearing trainers.
Yet should I have to spend time in hospital, for anything from the simplest of medical procedure, to a lifesaving operation, the last thing on my mind is who’ll occupy the bed next to me. More important things fill my mind, like hoping the operation is successful, not catching MRSA, or hoping I’ve remembered to switch the gas off.
So why would a government, whose priority is cutting the national debt and hospital waiting lists, want to waste £100 million of our taxes by creating single-sex wards.
The most important thing for a patient is receiving the best possible treatment, and getting home as quickly as possible; not who else is on the ward. Does the definition of a ‘single-sex ward’ include the staff, or does it just cover the bedbound patients? I actually prefer a pretty female nurse looking for my pulse.
Tony Blair first promised to get rid of mixed-sex wards back in 1997, but failed to abolish them. Eventually concluding it would be impossible, because of the disproportionate costs involved.
Now the new coalition government has pledged to end mixed sex hospital accommodation. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said he was “determined to end the practice” and will introduce new National Health Service sanctions. Ministers claim that ‘just’ £100m of investment will mean all trusts can provide single sex sleeping areas by June next year - or face fines. This could mean a hospital would lose up to two per cent of its income.
How Andrew Lansley thinks it will help cash-strapped hospitals, by taking money away from them, if they fail to implement these changes, is beyond me. A £100m is a lot of money, even by NHS standards. So much more could be done with this money, than wasting it on rearranging wards. I don’t care if someone of the opposite sex sees me in my little cotton pyjamas, it might actually cheer them up – or even make them laugh.
It’s estimated that only around one-in-ten hospital wards are still mixed sex anyway. Janet Davies of the Royal College of Nursing said “Some hospitals were already having problems with balancing the books. Adding extra financial pressure could make them look at making cuts elsewhere, which may impact on care.”
If I’m rushed into hospital, because I’ve been involved in an accident, or my appendix is about to explode. The last thing on my mind is who’ll be in the bed next to me.
Do ministers honestly think it’s a priority for someone in need of treatment, to be in a single sex ward, really? Being in a hospital is no holiday, no plane ride. Our taxes should be spent wisely and carefully, not wasted on issues that are perceived to create vote winning headlines.
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