One of the largest hospital trusts in England has developed a new electronic tracking system which can detect with up-to-the-minute accuracy when male and female patients have been mixed in wards or bays.
Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham has developed the new system in response to the government’s decision to issue financial sanctions to trusts that have failed to eradicate mixed sex wards, where there is no clinical justification, from next year.
On admission to the hospital every patient has their gender recorded on their individual electronic patient record. This is depicted with a pink female symbol for women and a blue male symbol for men.
The trust has also coded each ward, bay and bed in the hospital. A combination of the electronic coding systems allows staff to see immediately on screen, with the aid of the coloured gender symbols, where men and women have been mixed, either by accident or as a result of bed shortages.
Jo Richmond, a member of the trust’s corporate nursing unit, told Nursing Times that every morning ward managers and matrons assessed where patients had been mixed and then made plans to move them where appropriate.
‘We can see where we would not have expected to have patients to be in mixed-sex wards or bays and where we would, like in A&E,’ she said.
‘The system is showing us where we are compliant and helping us to understand where we are not compliant and what we need to do – it is a way of looking creatively at the issue,’ Ms Richmond added.
In March the Department of Health wrote a strongly worded letter to senior nurses at strategic health authorities telling them that the NHS must move ‘rapidly and decisively’ to eliminate mixed-sex accommodation over the next six months.
It followed the government’s latest commitment on the issue, made in January by former health secretary Alan Johnson, which included the threat of financial penalties and a £100m Privacy and Dignity Fund for trusts to finance necessary building or structural work.
Speaking earlier this month, new health secretary Andy Burnham said he would ‘finish the job’ of phasing out mixed-sex wards on the NHS.