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Sunday 20th May 2018

Patients must have their dignity

5th February 2008

The government must give patients the basic human need of their dignity, argues Janet Street-Porter.


Labour pledged in its manifestos of 1997 and 2001 to get rid of mixed sex wards in the NHS. Tony Blair once even said it was not “beyond the wit� of government or health administrators to do so.

However, Health Minister Lord Darzi has now conceded it has had to abandon the move. At a time that politicians say patient satisfaction is up and that waiting times are down, what I want to know is why the NHS cannot provide patients with basic dignity.

The new guidelines on wards now talk about single-sex accommodation, not single-sex wards, but whatever the terminology most patients still want to be in single-sex units and not have to go to the bathroom through mixed areas.

In an emergency, patients accept they may need to be placed in a mixed assessment ward but not for pre-booked admissions.

Just before Christmas I was approached by the Prime Minister’s wife Sarah Brown to support the cancer charity Maggie’s Centre. A year earlier, my sister died of cancer, spending her last days on a mixed sex ward. If only she had been able to visit such as place as Maggie’s Centre.

But Mrs Brown must find it embarrassing that Labour has just admitted that it will not be able to honour its commitment to end mixed-sex wards in NHS hospitals.

I support cancer charities, but until this government puts patients first, I cannot commit my time to raising cash for Maggie’s Centres.


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