“Unacceptable” mixed-sex wards are set to become the norm at a city dementia hospital.
Kingsway Care Centre, which looks after older people with mental health care needs, is set to be cut from four wards to three.
Initially, it was believed a single-sex ward would be retained following what the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) called an “operational closure” – but it said this will not be the case.
A spokeswoman for the HSCP said: “A test of change is currently underway in Ward 1 to move to a mixed-gender environment.
“This move was discussed with patients, their families and carers before being implemented.
“It brings us in line with the other wards in Kingsway Care Centre and with other NHS Tayside Psychiatry of Old Age units within Murray Royal Hospital and Stracathro Hospital.”
However, the move has been criticised by Scottish Labour North East MSP Jenny Marra, who says it puts women “at risk”.
She said: “The trend towards mixed-sex wards does not suit many women who value the dignity and safety of female-only spaces. Women may be vulnerable and may have had experiences in their lives that means a mixed-sex ward is not suitable for them.
“There will be women who feel uncomfortable or unsafe in a mixed-sex ward. Where is the evidence this is the right thing to do?”
The HSCP insists patient safety is their “first priority”, with en suite rooms for all patients. It also says measures will be implemented to ensure “safe, effective care” is delivered at Kingsway.
However, studies suggest mixed-sex wards are not a solution when health services cut beds.
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A 2017 study carried out by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland found one in four women in care are “concerned” about being on a mixed-sex ward.
Some of the women surveyed had been on the receiving end of “inappropriate sexual comments” by men they shared the ward with.
And research carried out by expert nurse Dr Lesley Baillie in the British Journal of Nursing in 2008 concluded: “Mixed-sex accommodation is an unacceptable solution to bed shortages.”
However, when quizzed on the suitability of the wards at a meeting last month, bosses were unrepentant about the move.
David Lynch, chief officer of the HSCP, said: “There has never been any reports or concerns about dignity in that facility.”