Campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to change its policy of having only single rooms in new hospitals following concerns about the negative effects on patients.
A petition submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee said the consequences of housing all patients in their own rooms included loneliness, isolation, increased hospital stays and compromised safety.
Doctors and MSPs have called for further consultation on the policy before more new NHS buildings are approved with 100 per cent single rooms.
The Scottish Government has maintained that single rooms are best for cutting the risk of infections and “enhancing” the experience of patients.
The petition, submitted by Dr John Womersley, a retired public health consultant who worked for the NHS in Glasgow for almost 30 years, calls for the Scottish Parliament to urge ministers to ensure patients in new hospitals are given the choice of multi-bedded or one-bed rooms.
Yesterday Dr Womersley said: “There are some people who are quite happy to sit in a single room and read a book, but there are others who prefer company.
“For those people forced to be in a single room against their will, it is an unhappy experience and they feel fearful. They feel they are going to be ignored and people are not around to support them.”
Former health secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced the single-rooms policy in 2008, with promises that this approach would help prevent the spread of infections and improve patient dignity.
Earlier this year, her successor, Alex Neil, revealed that 26 of the country’s 218 hospitals already had 100 per cent single rooms, saying there was “strong evidence” of their effectiveness.
Many have questioned whether single rooms – which campaigners say also add greatly to hospital building and running costs – do more harm than good in some cases.
The petition said there was no evidence to show that 100 per cent single rooms cut levels of hospital-acquired infections, and a mix of single and multi-bedded rooms would be adequate to isolate patients as needed.
The petition concludes by calling for a mix of single and multi-bedded rooms in new and refurbished hospitals.
Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie said there should not be a blanket policy. She said: “For many, particularly long-stay patients, sharing a room provides a sense of companionship.”