The problems of researching mixed sex wards


  • Dawn Batcup BSc(Hons) RMN RGN

    Corresponding author
    1. Research nurse (women's issues) The Bethlem & Moudsley NHS Trust, London, England
      118 Clifton Road, London SE25 6QA.
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118 Clifton Road, London SE25 6QA.


The following paper discusses the process of doing research on a sensitive and politically charged topic; ‘mixed sex’ psychiatric wards. It also highlights the conceptual and methodological difficulties of carrying out this enquiry. The particular deconstruction presented is suggested as knowledge or data alone, even though they are rarely found in finished research projects. It starts by setting the broader context of the research at The Bethlem and Maudsley Trust by looking at National policy, other studies in this subject area and media attention. It shows the triggers that caused a re-evaluation and changes in the original research question and assumptions about ‘mixed sex’ wards. It accounts for the research as it happens, rather than presenting a sanitised process of discovery. This forms the basis for describing some of the dilemmas for carrying out the in-depth research; showing how the reconfigured research subject became focused on the safety and effectiveness of ‘mixed sex’ wards for women. The grounded methodological approach to this study is outlined and the paradoxes it identified in psychiatric discourse are mentioned. Exerts of findings from the three separate research studies at The Bethelem and Maudsley Trust are given and discussed. The conclusion analyses the complexities of the subject and suggests that the ‘mixed sex’ ward problem may be the contemporary emergence of a much older and fundamental problematic inherent to psychiatry. Consequently, no simple answer is recommended.