Two thirds of nurses say their trust still places patients in mixed sex accommodation, with a quarter saying it occurs every day.
A third of respondents to a survey of more than 600 Nursing Times readers said they did not think their hospital would eliminate use of mixed sex accommodation by the end of the year but almost half were hopeful it could be achieved over the next five years.
The survey follows last week’s government announcement that routine reporting of breaches of rules on mixed sex accommodation would be introduced from the start of next year. The data will be published and fines imposed on trusts still failing to comply with the requirement to avoid same sex accommodation outside A&E and intensive care.
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However, the government stopped short of setting a new target for the abolition of mixed sex accommodation, despite earlier press reports to the contrary.
The previous government claimed that 95 per cent of trusts had “virtually eliminated” mixed sex accommodation in hospital areas except accident and emergency and critical care.
However, the Nursing Times survey results show 68 per cent of respondents believe their hospital trust still uses mixed sex accommodation on occasion.
Two thirds said the main reason for this was bed shortages during peak demand, compared with 17 per cent who cited the structure of old buildings - the reason most often given by trusts for lack of compliance.
One reader said: “Occupancy is over 100 per cent which means finding a bed is the problem, not a gender specific bed.”
Ian Hulatt, an adviser in the nursing department at the Royal College of Nursing, said he was not surprised pressure on beds was cited as a major cause. He said: “People don’t come into hospital in queues of gender.”
He also warned overstretched nurses might find it hard to record breaches at peak times, as required by the new policy. He said: “Recording data might be a bit lower down my priorities than delivering patient care.”
Only about a quarter of respondents said breaches were currently recorded routinely.
Less than half of respondents said elimination of mixed sex accommodation should be a priority for the government, with most ranking the protection of frontline services and improving service quality above it.
“The government need to get their priorities right and not make staff spend needless time and energy on this,” said one respondent.