Mixed-sex wards have been common in U.K. psychiatric hospitals in an attempt to provide a more 'normal' environment for service users. However, as people with less-severe mental illness are increasingly treated in the community people in psychiatric hospitals tend to be more disturbed and there have been concerns about the vulnerability of women to intimidation, violence and sexual harassment on mixed-sex wards. The U.K. government has been advocating more single-sex wards and many NHS Trusts have gone back to them. Researchers from Australia and the South London and Maudsley NHS FoundationTrust in London surveyed nursing staff on an acute psychiatric ward which was in the process of changing over from being mixed-sex to male only. They found that staff generally saw the change in negative terms and had particular concerns about the ward atmosphere becoming less therapeutic, more aggressive and their jobs becoming more stressful. These concerns did not get less over time. There were also concerns about the administrative problems caused by the changeover.
Thomas, Neil ... [et al] - Changing from mixed-sex to all-male provision in acute psychiatric care: a case study of staff experiences Journal of Mental Health April 2009, 18(2), 129-136