Introduction: All newly built NHS hospitals must provide 50% side rooms minimum. This is based on benefits assumed from infection control and patient preference studies however there is little evidence base for non-elective medical and older populations. In 2011, the Kent & Sussex Hospital moved from open wards of up to 24 patients to the Tunbridge Wells Hospital, with 100% single rooms.
Method: 700 recently discharged medical patients (all ages) were invited to participate in a postal survey study of dignity. 50% were recruited pre-move and 50% post-move. Each question asked for a scaled response and a free comment (former analysed separately). Two assessors undertook thematic analysis separately.
Results: 364 comments analysed from 174 of 396 (44%) returned surveys. 68% comments were from those in single rooms. Categories identified are split into those that are universal and those predominating at one site.
Loneliness: Exclusively seen in single room group.
Dementia / Delirium: Focused towards staff understanding and more negative experiences. Prevalence of awareness with respect to decision-making noted.
Timeliness: Especially management of pain/discomfort.
Pain / Discomfort: Discomfort was understood to include positioning not just pain requiring medication.
Independence: Enabling maintenance thereof.
Audio Privacy: Curtains insufficient to maintain confidentiality and dignity.
Conclusion: Potential benefits of side rooms should be balanced with disadvantages experienced by individual patients.