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Nurses urged to use clinical skills to avoid fines for mixed sex wards

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Should trusts be fined for breaching rules on mixed sex wards? Answer our poll 

Nurses are being urged to use their clinical judgement before treating patients in mixed sex wards, after 77 trusts were found to have breached new rules and could face fines in future.

Rules that came into effect last month stated that mixed sex accommodation should be “eliminated” where it is not in patients’ overall best interests or does not reflect their personal choice.

Nurses and doctors were also given a more prominent role in deciding whether or not this was the case.

Janice Stevens, the Department of Health’s national director of healthcare associated infection and mixed sex accommodation programmes, told Nursing Times: “We’ve got to make a judgement based on clinical justification.

“People have worked really hard to improve and change facilities in those areas where unjustified mixing was regularly going on.

“There has been real improvement. It’s light years away from where it was. But it’s clear there’s still unjustified mixed going on.”

Under the guidance, patients can be placed in mixed sex accommodation in the event of a life threatening emergency or if they are critically ill and require constant one to one care.

Mixing can also take place where a nurse must be present in the room/bay at all times, where a short period of close patient observation is needed or on the joint admission of couples or family groups.

Trusts reported 11,362 patients were wrongly placed in mixed accommodation in December, according to the first set of data since the rules came into effect. As well as publishing the data last week, the DH also announced that from April, trusts will receive a set £250 fine for every day a patient was wrongly mixed.

The worst performer in December was Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, where there were 1,379 breaches.

The Worcestershire trust’s director of nursing and midwifery, Helen Blanchard, said: “Work to enhance the privacy and dignity in our endoscopy, medical assessment unit, medical and surgical day case units trust-wide has been undertaken.”

The trust is working closely with commissioners to ensure it is fully compliant by April.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • How can you get rid of mixed sex wards especially on admission wards, there would be 'unacceptable' empty beds?

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  • Mixed sex wards are a no no I agree up to a point but I have seen situations especially in Psychiatry on an admission units some days you have a supply of female beds then within a day there is a chronic shortage of female beds or vice versa in this case the patient has to be admitted to another hospital which can be miles from their local area/family. At times this is a difficult situation to overcome so can anyone out there come up with a solution that can satisfy most of the patients.

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