Half of hospitals still treating patients in mixed wards

Half of hospitals still treating patients in mixed wards

Half of hospitals are still treating patients in mixed-sex wards as managers struggle to eradicate the practice before they start receiving fines.

By Martin Beckford, Health Correspondent 6:30AM GMT 18 Feb 2011

Official data show that 72 out of 144 acute trusts that provided figures treated men and women in the same wards in January, up from 70 out of 147 the previous month.

In total there were 8,160 incidences of patients of different sexes sharing wards last month.

Although this represents a fall on December’s figure of 11,362, it means managers are still battling to end the practice before a tough new regime is introduced.

From April, hospitals in England will face fines of £250 for each breach of the rules, which will be recorded on wards by computers and sent through the NHS management system.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said: “It is incredibly alarming that 50 per cent of hospitals are still providing mixed sex accommodation despite the Government’s commitment for this practice to stop by April.

“Mixed sex wards compromise a patient’s dignity and they need to stop. It is clear from these figures that the threat of fines has not been a good enough incentive and it is not a strong enough deterrent.

“Ultimately it will be the patients who pay the price as they cut into already squeezed budgets. It is too easy to carry on paying the fine, avoid the blame and above all avoid taking the action needed. “

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary who announced the new system in December, said: “We published this data for the first time to uncover what was really happening in our hospitals. Where Labour covered it up, we will sort it out.

“A key part of modernising the NHS is unleashing a new level of transparency, that’s why we made the information available.

“But it’s also about ensuring that failure isn’t rewarded. That’s why from April, hospitals will be fined £250 every time there is a breach. And the money will be reinvested into patient services.”

Politicians have long been promising to abolish the indignity of hospital patients, the majority of whom are elderly, being forced to sleep on wards with members of the opposite sex or use the same bathroom facilities.

Tony Blair claimed in 1996 it should not be beyond the “collective wit” of ministers to end mixed-sex wards, but in 2008 Lord Darzi claimed it was an “aspiration that cannot be met”.

The old-fashioned layouts of hospital wards and the costs involved upgrading them are often blamed for the difficulty in ensuring patients stay in single-sex areas.

In December, the Government announced financial penalties for hospitals that cannot comply with the requirement to outlaw mixed-sex accommodation.

From April, for each breach that is recorded, officials will judge whether or not it was justified and Primary Care Trusts will be able to impose fines on those deemed unacceptable.

Bed shortages, a lack of staff or delays in assessing patients’ conditions will not be accepted as excuses.

Last month the Department of Health disclosed the scale of the scandal in detail for the first time, in figures that showed for every 1,000 stays in a hospital, eight involved spending time on a mixed-sex ward.

The updated figures published on Thursday show that the “breach rate” has fallen to six in every 1,000 stays, while the proportion of hospitals reporting zero sleeping breaches fell to 50 per cent from 52.

The highest breach rate (12.5 per 1,000 stays) was recorded in the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority area, and the lowest (1.6) in Yorkshire and the Humber.

The hospital with the highest number of breaches was Macclesfield District General Hospital, with 580


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.