Introduction: Newly built NHS hospitals must provide a minimum of 50% single-rooms. The rationale is based on infection control, dignity and patient choice. The existing evidence-base, neglects general medical and older patients. Our hospital moved from nightingale wards to a new building with 100% single-rooms. We examine the effect of hospital environment on dignity and preference in medical patients.
Method: 700 recently discharged medical patients (aged > 16, over 2 four-month periods) were sent a postal survey of dignity. 350 were invited pre-move and 350 post-move. Validated questions used to assess dignity, mood and preference. Tests used were Mann-Whitney for scaled responses and Chi-square for preference comparison.
Results: Responders represented the population. There was no difference in response rates (57%) by site (p = 0.13). Median age: 75 (IQR 62-84).
Single-room preference increased post-move (60 to 77%). Increases were due those under 80 (p = 0.001). In those over 80, 35 and 37% (p = 0.86) would prefer shared accommodation.
Conclusion: Despite the drive to single room occupancy, over a third of patients aged over 80 would prefer shared accommodation.
With the exception of privacy, room occupancy was not found to impact provision of other aspects of dignity or mood. We did not find evidence to support the routine use of single-rooms for all medical inpatients especially those over 80.