Despite their apparent popularity with the public and the media, hospitals can be ambiguous places. If you are suddenly or seriously ill, then having immediate access to skilled professionals trained in managing your condition can be, quite literally, a matter of life and death. For people who have become ill over a longer period of time, finally realising that someone is going to take care of you and (it is hoped) make you better can also be a major relief — prompting feelings of extreme gratitude. However, some people probably do not want to end up in hospital in the first place, and for them the same process can be much more distressing and intimidating. Often, they can feel scared, unsure what is happening and desperate to do anything they can to get home. Nationally, there have been debates about the availability of single-sex wards, the nature of the built environment, the quality of hospital food and the cleanliness of wards — all of which can vary significantly and have a significant impact on health and well-being. As people get better, moreover, they can become increasingly frustrated by the institutional nature of many ward routines. For those with ongoing needs, there have also been long-standing debates about how best to organise follow-up support, so that people do not stay in hospital too long, are not discharged too soon and are not sent home before appropriate community support is in place.
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