Giving patients their own hospital room does not improve infection rates or lengths of stay and increases the likelihood of falls, unpublished research for the Department of Health shows.
But the study by York Health Economics Consortium and Hillingdon Hospital Trust also revealed a strong preference among patients for single rooms.
While previous studies have shown more than two thirds of patients preferred shared accommodation, at Hillingdon 92 per cent said they wanted a single room for their next stay.
The study was obtained by HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times. Hillingdon lead research nurse for patient experience Sarah McDonagh told the magazine more than half of the falls in single rooms were associated with access to the bathroom.
The study was based on a nine month analysis of 1,289 patients in gastro, haematology and general medicine wards, as well as questionnaires, spread out over a year.
Patients were treated in three types of room with varying degrees of privacy, one of which could not be easily seen from the hospital corridor.
Asked if they had feelings of isolation, 12 per cent of patients in single rooms said yes, while 18 per cent said they felt lonely. However, only 1 per cent were dissatisfied with their room.
There was no evidence that lengths of stay were lower in single rooms.
A small reduction in infections was attributed to lower rates of C difficile across the hospital.
The Department of Health has said single rooms should comprise 20-50 per cent of all accommodation in new hospital developments. Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust is building the first hospital made up entirely of private rooms, at Pembury Hospital.
Royal College of Nursing head of policy Howard Catton said there was “undoubtedly” a need to increase single side rooms in the interests of patient dignity. However, it was also important to have bays for patients wanting more social interaction.