BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: There is little strong evidence relating to the impact of single-room accommodation on healthcare quality and safety. We explore the impact of all single rooms on staff and patient experience; safety outcomes; and costs.
METHODS: Mixed methods pre/post 'move' comparison within four nested case study wards in a single acute hospital with 100% single rooms; quasi-experimental before-and-after study with two control hospitals; analysis of capital and operational costs associated with single rooms.
RESULTS: Two-thirds of patients expressed a preference for single rooms with comfort and control outweighing any disadvantages (sense of isolation) felt by some. Patients appreciated privacy, confidentiality and flexibility for visitors afforded by single rooms. Staff perceived improvements (patient comfort and confidentiality), but single rooms were worse for visibility, surveillance, teamwork, monitoring and keeping patients safe. Staff walking distances increased significantly post move. A temporary increase of falls and medication errors in one ward was likely to be associated with the need to adjust work patterns rather than associated with single rooms per se. We found no evidence that single rooms reduced infection rates. Building an all single-room hospital can cost 5% more with higher housekeeping and cleaning costs but the difference is marginal over time.
CONCLUSIONS: Staff needed to adapt their working practices significantly and felt unprepared for new ways of working with potentially significant implications for the nature of teamwork in the longer term. Staff preference remained for a mix of single rooms and bays. Patients preferred single rooms.