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Mixed Sex Wards Short Term Pain Will Reap Long Term

Friday, 30 January 2009

Government plans to set tough targets for eradication of mixed sex wards were today welcomed by management experts.

Health secretary Alan Johnson this week outlined plans to penalise any hospitals which cannot clinically justify any use of mixed-sex wards by the financial year 2010-2011.

And while there can be no denying that eradicating the wards can be complex and challenging, management experts claim that by taking a long-term holistic view of both the costs and the benefits, the 15 per cent still using open plan mixed sex wards could "have it both ways".

Gareth Jones, of Finnamore Management Consultants, said: "Of course the open plan, mixed sex wards that once characterised much of the NHS can have no place in a 21st century health service but it isn't just about meeting a short term target.

"There is a growing body of evidence that good planning and design can improve health outcomes and patient satisfaction, reduce lengths of stay in hospital, help to tackle the healthcare associated infections that cause so much concern, deliver the standards of privacy and dignity that the NHS is striving for and save money in the long run.  

"Cutting costs on planning and design and the quality of buildings, on the other hand, can be a false economy.

"Not everyone is a devotee of 'evidence based design' but some of that evidence is compelling and deserves greater attention. If we take a more holistic, longer term view of the costs and benefits of investment we may find that we can have our cake and eat it."

Last week, Mr Johnson was reported to be disappointed with progress to date, saying: "Sane and rational arguments about why it can't be done no longer cut it with me, it's going to happen."

Finnamore specialises in providing top class, high value strategic consultancy services to public and private organisations throughout the health and social care sectors.

As a result, it has been involved in helping a number of Trusts plan and implement the types of changes necessary to make ridding hospitals of mixed sex wards possible.

Mr Jones added: "While it is disappointing that such wards still exist, it is important that we do not underestimate the scale of the task nor belittle what has been achieved - there has been tremendous progress and significant parts of the NHS estate have changed out of all recognition.

"Anyone who travels the NHS and is familiar with hospitals, as Mr Johnson is, will know that and will also know that there is still much to be done.

"But the important thing is to remember that it can be done, and not only that, it must be done in order to achieve the long-term benefits demanded by a 21st Century health system."


 - Ends -


Notes to editors:

Finnamore Management Consultants was established in 1991 and has built an extensive client portfolio of healthcare organisations across the UK, undertaking a wide range of consultancy assignments.

The work of Finnamore Management Consultants work encompasses all management issues encountered in health and social care sectors both public and private, from perennial healthcare issues to pioneering new initiatives and developments.