CASH-STRAPPED health chiefs need to find more money to help improve the privacy and dignity of mentally-ill patients.

Health authorities across the UK have set themselves targets to secure acceptable standards of hospital accommodation.

East Lancashire Health Authority is confident of meeting Patient's Charter targets to improve facilities on normal mixed sex wards.

But according to Government figures, the health authority has been unable to set a target on developing safe facilities for mentally-ill patients. These say the health authority needs to find thousands of pounds of capital investment before starting improvements.

The Government has announced a new drive to speed up the removal of mixed sex wards from existing resources.

Both Burnley and Blackburn hospital trusts are investing cash to end the humiliation of mixed sex facilities and confident of developing separate washing and toilet facilities by 1998/99.

Health bosses at the Blackburn trust have drawn up a list of wards, mainly at Blackburn Infirmary, where work needs to be done.

Improvements are also needed at Queen's Park and Park Lee hospitals and they have set themselves a 15-month target.

Nursing and quality director Richard Gildert said: "There are plans for a new mental health unit at Queen's Park and the business case will take into account the issues surrounding mixed sex wards, including safety for women.

"But we need to do something now. Mental health patients currently sleep in separate male and female dormitories and we need to improve our monitoring procedures at night to make sure that males don't wander into female dorms."

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