Every patient to get own hospital room in bid to beat MRSA
Doctor Harry Burns has told health chiefs that multi-bed units must be scrapped, ending the traditional ward layouts used since the days of Florence Nightingale.
The move is part of the Scottish Government's efforts to prevent the spread of 'superbug' infections such as MRSA and C difficile.
Under the new policy, all new-build and refurbished hospitals will be fitted out with individual rooms and en-suite toilets and showers.
Mike Baxter, deputy director of NHS Scotland's capital planning and asset management division, outlined the new policy in a letter to health board chiefs.
He said: "The current provision of single room accommodation is not sufficient across NHS Scotland and 100 per cent single room provision is clinically appropriate in most clinical settings."
The new 842 million Southern General Hospital in Glasgow will be one of the first examples of a 100 per cent single room hospital. In refurbished wards, at least 50 per cent of the beds will have to be in single rooms.
Critics raised concerns the new policy could lead to some patients, particularly the elderly, feeling lonely and isolated.
Gail Adams, UK head of nursing for Unison, said: "Single rooms may offer privacy but they can be very psychologically isolating for patients, as well as requiring more staff working in different ways. Finding a partial solution to one problem may just open the door to others."
Bridget Hunter, Unison Scotland's lead officer for nurses and midwives, added: "We can only go so far with the prevention of infections before it begins to turn into a depersonalising monster.
"A balance needs to be struck. The sick and the elderly need comfort and care, and not to feel alone or in danger if we are to care for their mental health."
However, Margaret Watt, chief executive of the Scotland Patients Association was "1,000 per cent" behind the change.
She said: "We agree with single units and we recognise that some older patients may feel vulnerable. But they've got to understand that this is being done for their safety, not to isolate them.
"There's always a day room they can go to, and for those who are confined to bed, nurses will be in and out all day."
Norman Provan, associate director with the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, said the advantages of single rooms in terms of patient dignity and infection control were clear.
But he added: "There is a risk these benefits would be overshadowed if nurses - who deliver the majority of patient care - are not consulted in the design of new hospitals and problems subsequently arise from poor layout of new wards which prevent nursing staff from providing effective care."
Shona Robison, the Minister for Public Health, said the Scottish Government was committed to doing everything possible to drive infection rates down.
"This includes single room hospital accommodation as it minimises the risk of HAIs spreading," she said. "We would always expect NHS staff to work to ensure that patients are not left feeling lonely and isolated."