Privacy and dignity

Same-sex accommodation declaration

The NHS is committed to making sure that all patients receive high-quality care that is safe, effective and focused on their needs. The NHS Constitution states that all patients have the right to privacy and to be treated with dignity and respect.

We believe that providing same-sex accommodation is an effective way of helping to achieve this goal and of giving all patients the best possible experience while they are in hospital.

What do we mean by mixed-sex and same-sex accommodation?

Mixed-sex accommodation is where men and women have to share sleeping areas or toilet and washing facilities. Same-sex accommodation is where specific sleeping areas and toilet and washing facilities are designated as either men-only or women-only.

Same-sex accommodation can be provided in:

  • Same-sex wards, where the whole ward is occupied by men or women only

  • Single rooms

  • Mixed wards, where men and women are in separate bays or rooms.

Toilet and washing facilities should be easily accessible and, ideally, either inside or next to the ward, bay or room. Patients should not need to go through sleeping areas or toilet and washing facilities used by the opposite sex to access their own.

Why is same-sex accommodation so important?

It is clear from what patients tell us that being in mixed-sex accommodation can compromise their privacy and dignity at a time when they may already be feeling vulnerable. The most common concerns include physical exposure, being in an embarrassing or threatening situation, noise, and the possibility of other patients overhearing conversations about their condition.

Self-declaration statement regarding same-sex accommodation

Delivering single sex accommodation – Declaration of compliance

East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust (EKHUFT) confirms that it is working towards eliminating mixed sex accommodation unless in the overall best interest of the patient, or reflects their personal choice.

Sharing with members of the opposite sex will only happen where clinically necessary (for example where patients need specialist equipment such as in the cardiac wards, Intensive care units or stroke wards), or where patients actively choose to share.

If our care should fall short of the required standard, we will report it. We will also set up an audit mechanism to make sure that we do not misclassify any of our reports.

There are also several single rooms on every ward. These are normally prioritised for patients who are infectious, or are prone to infection. In addition, they are used for patients who are very sick indeed or who have a greater need of privacy or may be at the end of their life.

Patients may share some communal spaces on the ward (e.g. dayrooms, dining areas).

Children’s wards

For children and young people (CYP), clinical need, infectious status, age, stage of development and safeguarding requirements may take precedence over sex considerations.

Accommodation of a child or young person (CYP) is based on individual clinical, psychological and social needs. This approach is conveyed to the child or young person (where they are able to understand), and their carers prior to admission. If a CYP does not feel that the accommodation offered provides sufficient privacy and dignity, we will try to provide an acceptable alternative. If our care should fall short of the required standard, we will report it.

There is no national requirement to extend single sex considerations to parent/carer accommodation. Many of our parents/carers choose to sleep by the CYP’s bedside, sometimes in shifts and consequently bays cannot be separated by sex of the parent.

Transgender, non-binary and inter sex CYP are given the same respect for their self-defined gender as trans adults, regardless of their sex assigned at birth. There is no requirement to treat a young Transgender, non-binary and inter sex person any differently from other CYP. Where the CYP chooses to share accommodation by sex this will be in accordance with the preferred name and/or stated identity of the CYP.

In some instances, parents or those with parental responsibility may have a view that is not consistent with the CYP’s view. If possible, the CYP’s preference will prevail even if the CYP is not Gillick competent.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 supports the rights of people who are transgender, non-binary and intersex. As in all healthcare provision in EKHUFT, care will be patient-centric and uphold the principle of privacy and dignity. People do not need a gender recognition certificate to access single sex spaces.

In the case of patients who are transgender or who have undergone gender reassignment, each person will be treated with the utmost understanding and discretion when agreeing which clinical area they may prefer.