Mixed-sex hospital breaches fall again after spring blip

Lowest-ever breach rate reported for June as hospitals improve the environment for patients

The number of hospital patients being treated in mixed-sex environments is being curbed once again following the first increase in 18 months of data being recorded.

In June this year a total of 325 breaches were reported, compared to 434 in May and 559 in April, when figures increased for the first time since the Government introduced mandatory fines.

In all, 163 trusts submitted data, with 324 of the breaches occurring in acute trusts and one at Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a dedicated mental health provider. Of the acute trusts submitting data, 82% reported no breaches.

However, for the first time in more than six months, NHS North East failed to uphold its zero breach rate, reporting four incidents during June. The strategic health authority with the most breaches was NHS London with 189, followed by NHS North West with 70. NHS South West was the only regional organisation to report no breaches for the month.

The trusts most affected were Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, with 45 breaches, 36 at St Helier Hospital and nine at Epsom Hospital; King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, with 54 breaches, all at King’s College Hospital in Denmark Road; and Barts Health NHS Trust, with 29 incidents, all at Whipps Cross University Hospital.

The primary care trusts with the most breaches were NHS Sutton and Merton with 33 incidents and NHS Surrey with 23.

Under the Department of Health (DH) regulations, introduced 18 months ago, NHS trusts, and any other organisations treating NHS patients, are required to provide sleeping accommodation and bathroom and toilet facilities dedicated to each sex. Each month they must report all unjustified mixing of the sexes and pass these figures onto the DH. Sleeping accommodation includes areas where patients are admitted and cared for on trolleys or beds, even if they do not stay overnight, such as admissions and assessment units and day surgery and endoscopy centres. The rules do not include areas where patients have not been admitted, such as accident and emergency cubicles or where it is in the best interests of the patient, for example in intensive care units.

For every breach of the rules, trusts are fined £250. On a four-bed ward, even if there are three men and only one woman, the regulations state the fine must be paid four times over. For June the fines amounted to £81,250, the lowest figure yet.

Click here for full details of June’s breach rates

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