Patients spoke yesterday of their grim experiences in mixed hospital wards and claimed the Government fiddles the figures to suggest that most are now segregated.
Readers of The Daily Telegraph, from Truro to Manchester, said there were often naked and semi-naked patients of the opposite sex in full view and intimate medical discussions were easily overheard.
They said that flimsy partitions were used to indicate that the sexes were separated and that wards were classed as emergency or temporary in order to get around the rules.
The Department of Health says that 99 per cent of NHS trusts comply with the requirement to provide single-sex accommodation but on Thursday Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, admitted there were problems.
Single-sex lavatories were achieved by changing the designation on the doors to either male or female depending on the sex of the occupant. “In effect this made the facility unisex,” she said. “I had to endure all the mess left by ill and confused male users of the lavatory.”
A reader from Weston-super-Mare said that last March, at Weston General Hospital, she was on a ward with a partition half way through the room.
“I was taken to a bed on the male side. They said they would move me when a female bed was available.
“When I asked for the curtains to be drawn I was told it was not possible as the nurse needed to see me. I was on the male side when I came round from my operation and found this extremely stressful.
“When I needed to use a commode the curtains were at least 2ft from the floor — very distressing and undignified.”
A woman admitted to the Princess Royal Hospital, Telford, wrote: “I was amazed and embarrassed to find myself staring at a row of men.
“The man opposite had a skin complaint and lay on top of his bed with his pyjamas open and a small paper towel balanced on his private parts.
“Every time he moved the towel fell off.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are aware of these issues and know there is a disparity between our figures and the public view. That is why the Secretary of State has asked strategic health authorities to look into this and to report back to us.”
Government officials love to make reports. It’s one of the few things they are actually pretty good about doing. Too bad they can’t actually accomplish something useful.