Number of NHS patients treated in mixed-sex wards plummets

DH figures show 94% reduction in 12 months as fines drive improvements

The number of NHS patients being treated in mixed-sex accommodation has dropped by 94% in 12 months after fines were introduced to improve privacy and dignity in hospitals.

Breaches of the single-sex rules for inpatients are now recorded and the results published monthly by the Department of Health. For every person treated in a mixed-sex environment, the trust responsible is fined £250. This means that even if only person in a four-bay ward is of the opposite sex, the trust must pay the fine four times over.

For December 2011, the latest figures to be released, a total of 767 patients were affected. This compares to 11,802 in December 2010, and it is down on November 2011, when there were 933 breaches. Overall, it led to a total fine of £191,750.

Overall, 7% of hospitals are now reporting no breaches at all and, like the previous month, NHS North East strategic health authority (SHA) was the only regional body to report no breaches at any of its facilities. The worst SHA in December was London with 295 breaches. The hospital trusts most affected were Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, with 150 breaches at Stafford Hospital; and Barts and the London NHS Trust with 130 breaches, 128 of those at the Royal London Hospital. The trusts say they are waiting for estates improvements to be completed, which will enable them to provide single-sex accommodation for patients in the future.

We know that many older patients find sharing a ward with the opposite sex significantly compromises their privacy and the experience can be extremely depressing

Welcoming the success over the past 12 months, Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, 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.”

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, added: “We are pleased to see figures finally showing real progress in bringing an end to mixed-sex accommodation. We know that many older patients find sharing a ward with the opposite sex significantly compromises their privacy and the experience can be extremely depressing.”

Click here to see data on individual trusts

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