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Hospitals still breaching mixed-sex ward ban


Thousands of patients are still sleeping on mixed-sex wards despite the fact hospitals face being fined from April.

In February this year there were 7,583 breaches of rules banning the unjustified use of mixed-sex sleeping accommodation, reveal the latest figures published by the Department of Health.

Seventy-five trusts had breached the rules – nearly all were acute trusts.

However, the data shows more than half of acute trusts included in the analysis – 53 per cent - had eradicated the practice altogether and that the number of reported breaches has dropped.

Updated figures for December show there were 11,802 breaches. There were 8,160 reported in January.

From April this year trusts will be fined £250 every time a patient is wrongly placed on a mixed-sex ward under a stringent enforcement regime introduced by the coalition government.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the falling figures showed trusts had responded but there were “still far too many” breaches.

“Individual hospital trusts must explain why they break the rules,” he said.

Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals – one of the largest acute trusts - reported the most breaches in February at 859.

Chief nurse Elaine Strachan-Hall said the majority – 732 - were from day cases. Better recording of breaches in these areas had led to an increase in the number reported.

“The trust is planning to make changes to these areas to provide single sex accommodation,” she said.

“However, this is not work that is easy to achieve in the very short-term and we will continue to have problems in this area until we are able to carry out some significant capital work in out day care areas.”

While the guidelines on single sex accommodation do not include critical care, the trust and NHS Oxfordshire have set a four-hour time limit for moving patients who no longer need critical care to an appropriate ward and single sex accommodation.

“If we do not meet this, we report it as a breach. This accounts for 80 of the breaches,” said Ms Strachan-Hall.

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Readers' comments (37)

  • This was such a bad move when it happened in the late 80's,was a disaster and caused alot of stress to patient's,especially to the elderly.
    Was only used to fill bed spaces,shouldve listened to the nurses then!!!!! maybe you should listen to the "front line" staff more often.Such a mess and huge waste of money.

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  • "...mixed-sex sleeping accommodation..."

    there will be bed-sharing next.

    I am still trying to figure out in the 4-bunk bed units in wards of the underground nuclear shelter hospitals how to do cardiac massage and resus. on the top bunks? and where would the staff sleep as one such university hospital has 150 beds, fully equipped op. theatre, pharmacy and kitchens for 150 patients for the evacuation of a 1000-bed hospital with 5000 staff. I have been informed that preference is given to nationals of the country which means non-nurses would also have to look after the patients. seems rather a lot of money was spent on this project for...........?

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  • John Howes

    You couldn't make it up! Our Trust is in financial failure, we are currently undergoing a redundancy process with 147 jobs at risk. added to this they are trying to put people in posts that they are unable to do, simply to avoid redundancy payments.

    We start next financial year more than £30million in the red. How is fining us going to ease that problem?

    It's enough to make a statue weep.

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  • I find it hard to comment on having an NHS bed, anywhere/wherever, and watching Comic Relief, where any bed, even shared would be a privilege and maybe free. However, in the UK, we should expect bays to be male or female, granted, but years ago whole wards were male or female. It wasn't until the advent of 'admission wards' when this became a real issue in the NHS (excluding ITU, which is It is public opinion that demand these standards, but I do wonder if they are aware of the constraints it puts upon the service. Perhaps, no definitely, it is about time ward staff opinion was taken into consideration too.

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  • It is true that a lot of money has been spent on this that probably could have been put to much better use. I accept that on the wards patients wopuld prefer not to be in a bed next to someone of the opposite sex, but we have just spent a fortune having to redesign our endoscopy unit to meet this challenge. The money would have been better spent on new equipment, after all our patients are with us for an average of about 1 - 2 hours!

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  • "Perhaps, no definitely, it is about time ward staff opinion was taken into consideration too."

    it is the patients who have to put up with sharing the beds not the staff and some consider it against all human dignity and their rights should be respected and not those of the staff!

    as for spending money, it should be a non-negotiable given and not an issue that many males and females do not wish to be put on the same ward.

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  • I'm confused by this whole mixed sex ward thing. Does it mean that one half of the ward has to be female and the other half of the ward has to be male? If this is the case then my ward already do this.

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  • I am curious would any of us be willing to refuse treatment if the bed happen to be in a male area or vice versa. With all the best will in the world people do not become unwell in equal numbers i.e male/females at times you have more males admitted to a ward and at times you have more females admitted to a ward. Therfore if there are not enough female/male beds at your local hospital would people be willing to be treated further away from home just asking.

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  • Anonymous | 19-Mar-2011 12:40 pm

    'it is the patients who have to put up with sharing the beds not the staff and some consider it against all human dignity and their rights should be respected and not those of the staff!'

    I don't think we have got to the point of patients sharing beds. Staff have to look at patient safety as well as dignity. I don't think anyone is suggesting you have a female in a bed next to a male or vice versa. It seems ITU is an exception, and probalbly A&E, especially when cueing in the corridors, but if the male/female divide in these areas become reality, then the financial implications are phenominal.

    There are patients refused specialist treatment because a male/female bed cannot be created, but you can't please all the people all of the time.

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  • "you can't please all the people all of the time."

    it's not a question of pleasing people. you wouldn't go to a hotel and expect to be given a room with a stranger, let alone one of the opposite sex. what has happened to basic human decency, and it is far worse for people who are sick? and don't say it is different because i cannot find any more suitable analogy but i do not see why one should be dictated to by nurses from the 'me now generation' just for their own convenience and without any consideration for the basic needs of their patients!

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