The government has been criticised for failing to fulfil its commitment to create more single-sex wards in hospitals.
A report by Professor Christine Beasley, the government's chief nursing officer, has made recommendations to help trusts improve access to single-sex accommodation.
She said: "For some patients, mixed-sex accommodation is not a problem, but for many it is a course of real distress.
"We need to acknowledge this and work to eliminate it in all but the most unusual circumstances.
"Single-sex accommodation is a core commitment in the NHS. It should be the norm in all elective care, when patients are pre-booked in for hospital treatment and it remains the ideal for when treatment in unscheduled."
Health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, responded by saying: "This report shows there is clearly still more work for the NHS to do to meet our commitment to eliminate mixed-sex accommodation wherever possible."
Meanwhile, shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, claimed the government was trying to "bury bad news" by announcing Blair's departure as the report was released.