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Mixed-sex wards to attract fines

Hospitals to be fined £250 every day per patient from April

Louise Prime

Friday, 21 January 2011

Most English hospitals now manage to comply with the rules banning mixed-sex accommodation, but those that don’t will – from April – be fined £250 for every day that every patient spends on a mixed-sex ward.

Last month, 11,362 patients were in mixed-sex hospital accommodation in England – which represents 8.1 breaches per 100,000 ‘finished consultant episodes’. Only half (52%) of hospitals who submitted data were able to claim no breaches at all.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley welcomed the open publication of these data, but criticised this number of breaches: “Today, for the first time we are publishing information that exposes the true state of mixed-sex accommodation in the NHS. The figures show an unacceptable level of breaches in which patient dignity has been compromised.”

He warned that from April hospitals will be expected to declare that they comply fully, and fined for every breach that occurs. “By April, we expect every hospital to be capable of meeting the single sex accommodation standard. And so from 1st April we are introducing £250 fines for every time a hospital has concerns that a patient’s dignity is not respected in this way. And we are increasing the number of single rooms in the NHS to ensure no patient suffers this indignity when it is unjustified,” said Mr Lansley.

For each patient who is in mixed-sex accommodation, the hospital will be fined £250 for every day. The Department of Health said that any fines collected would be reinvested into patient care.

Nigel Edwards, NHS Confederation acting chief executive, said: “Many of the NHS organisations that have not eliminated all of their mixed-sex accommodation have real practical issues – many are in old buildings and they will need substantial re-investment to address the issue. We need to understand why it is so difficult for them to stamp out the problem.

“There will always be circumstances when the treatment of the patient, not the accommodation, will be the ultimate priority. However, unless there is a valid clinical reason to justify patients being on mixed sex wards, NHS organisations should be making every effort to eliminate it.

“The collection of information will play a big part in making this policy a success. But we must make sure that those organisations who provide the most robust data will not be unfairly punished.”

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