An article published today in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) lays out the case for and against individual rooms, with leading bacteriologist Professor Hugh Pennington arguing that it will benefit patients by cutting the spread of hospital superbugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.
The Scottish Government wants all new hospitals to have 100% single rooms to offer privacy and reduce hospital acquired infections.
But Chris Isles, Consultant Physician at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, said patients should be given a choice and recommended an 80:20 or 70:30 ratio of single to shared rooms.
He wrote: "Many patients crave company when admitted to hospital and like the idea that other patients will look out for them if something goes wrong. They will also be aware when they press their buzzers for help that nurses cannot always respond immediately.
"The prospect of spending several days alone in a single room clearly does not appeal to everyone."
Professor Pennington, Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, wrote: "The evidence that physical barriers are good at preventing the spread of microbes is strong. A study in Canada on the effect of changing intensive care unit arrangements from multi-bed to single rooms showed falls in rates of acquisition of Clostridium difficile of 43%."
He added that single rooms would also reduce the risk of contracting norovirus and were a "basic requirement" for controlling the spread of tuberculosis.