New NHS hospitals might have to be built for single patient rooms only


New NHS hospitals could be built without wards, it was claimed today.

Patients may instead be housed in their own rooms, under plans being considered by health chiefs.

It would mark a major change to traditional NHS designs, which, for decades, have relied on multi-bed wards. 

Officials believe the move would help prevent the spread of viruses such as Covid, flu and norovirus within hospitals. 

New NHS hospitals could be built without wards under plans to ensure all patients are given private rooms

Single-bed rooms make up less than 2 per cent of the total beds available in England

Single-bed rooms make up less than 2 per cent of the total beds available in England

Pictured: Tunbridge Wells Hospital in Kent is thought to be the only health service hospital currently using the single room model for its 400-beds

Pictured: Tunbridge Wells Hospital in Kent is thought to be the only health service hospital currently using the single room model for its 400-beds

Record 40,000 nurses quit NHS last year 

Record numbers of nurses are quitting the NHS in England, with overwhelmed staff ditching hospital roles for better-paid retail gigs.

More than 40,000 have left the health service in the past year – nearly a tenth of the workforce, official data suggests.

Many leavers were highly skilled and knowledgeable with years more work left. They were quitting in pursuit of a better work-life balance, analysts said.

The Nuffield Trust think-tank, which carried out the analysis, said the findings should act as an ‘urgent wake-up call’ for the Government, which is yet to commit to sorting the huge staffing crises plaguing the health service.

A lack of staff has been central to the record NHS care backlogs, ambulance delays and emergency department queues. 

Meanwhile, health leaders today warned staff are resigning in order to work in pubs, restaurants and coffee shops amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Patients can already pay between £100 and £350 a night to stay in a private room while receiving NHS care — such as after giving birth. 

But they make up less than 2 per cent of the total beds available in England. 

There are currently around 130,000 NHS hospital beds across the country but only 2,200 single patient rooms, Health Service Journal reports. 

Current Department of Health rules say hospitals need to provide at least half their beds in single rooms when refurbishing or building new sites.

But last year, NHS England and Improvement’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said all patients should be given private rooms as ‘default’.

Tunbridge Wells Hospital, in Kent, is thought to be the only site currently using the single room-only model for its 400-beds.

Under the Government’s plan to freshen up the deteriorating NHS estate, another 48 hospitals are due to be built by 2030.

The £4billion task includes rebuilding some hospitals and knocking down existing buildings to replace them with state-of-the-art facilities. 

The single room-only idea, being discussed by the New Hospitals Programme (NHP), could save costs in the long-run.

NHS chiefs warned the current economic turmoil could delay current projects, with higher borrowing costs making it more expensive to build new units.

Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, told The i: ‘The current topsy-turvy state of the financial markets are a concern for trust leaders. 

‘The turbulence is creating headaches for trusts’ big major capital projects, including the affordability of rising building costs. 

‘For trusts in the Government’s New Hospital Programme, construction delays have significant cost implications too.’

Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust — one of the areas set to receive a new hospital — saw its project cost jump a third from £371million to £497million after it moved from planning 70 per cent single rooms last year to the full 100. 

Last year, Professor Powis said the rooms offer ‘privacy and dignity’.

He told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee: ‘Personally, I feel coming out of the pandemic one of the things we need to think really hard about is the number of single beds that we have.

‘I think that we need to move in our hospitals much more to single rooms being the default for privacy and dignity, for infection control and actually for flow issues.

‘That’s something we need to think hard about as we build the hospitals of the future.’

A study by the National Institute for Health and Care Research in 2015 found two thirds of patients clearly preferred being in private rooms.

But a fifth of patients — particularly men — said they preferred wards because of the security of being visible to staff.

And the majority of staff said they would want a mixture of single rooms and open wards, with some saying single rooms stopped them monitoring patients properly. 

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, told the HSJ: ‘The percentage (of single room-only beds) should be higher than it is at the moment.

‘But it’s not clear if 100 per cent is the right number.’



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