Mixed-sex breaches at all-time low

For the first time two SHAs report zero breaches as levels fall

Trusts are fined for every patient treated in a mixed-sex environment

For the first time since monthly league tables were published 14 months ago, two strategic health authorities in England have reported no incidents of NHS patients being house in mixed-sex accommodation.

NHS North East has reported no breaches of the single-sex guidelines for the past few months. However, January saw the first time a second organisation revealed a clean slate. NHS East Midlands has now also managed to stamp out the practice at all its facilities.

Reporting of all mixed-sex accommodation (MSA) breaches is now mandatory across all NHS units with sleeping facilities, including where patients are admitted and cared for on beds or trolleys, day surgery units, admissions and assessment units and endoscopy departments. The figures do not take into account areas where patients have not been formally admitted, such as A&E cubicles.

For each reported breach, the trust responsible is fined £250. This means that on a four-bedded ward, even if there are three female and one male patient, the fine is charged four times over.

For January, the total number of breaches recorded was 625, compared to 767 in December, and the lowest figures so far since the Government introduced reporting in December 2010. This equates to fines totalling £156,250.

Of the 165 acute trusts that submitted data, 119 – 72% - reported no breaches, although all but one of the incidents did involve an acute provider, with just one breach in a community trust.

While NHS North East and NHS East Midlands had clean slates, NHS London was at the other end of the scale, reporting 227 breaches, followed by NHS North West with 101.

The provider trusts with the most breaches were St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust (47 at St George’s Hospital), South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (45 at Warwick Hospital), and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (42 at the Royal Sussex County Hospital).

The primary care trusts with the most reports were NHS Warwickshire (39), NHS Gloucestershire (37) and NHS Surrey (36)

Commenting on the figures, Andrew Lansley, Health Secretary, said: “Nobody should have to suffer the indignity of staying in mixed-sex accommodation and this is why I pledged to tackle this issue so that if patients go in for treatment, they will be cared for with compassion, dignity and privacy. Thanks to our tough action, the figures released confirm that we are delivering on that promise.

“Almost all acute hospitals are following the rules and we are working to ensure this is copied across the NHS. But one breach of the rules is one too many, and we will continue to work on eliminating the indignity of mixed-sex accommodation.”

The hospitals most affected say they are currently in the middle of making improvements to buildings or building new facilities, so hope to be in a position to meet the rules within the coming months.

Companies