Health

Hospitals get mixed-sex ward fines

Hospital ward
Image caption Eliminating mixed-sex wards has been a long-held goal

Hospitals in England have been fined for keeping patients in mixed-sex accommodation under a new push to eradicate the problem.

There were 2,660 breaches in April - half the number from the previous month, the Department of Health said.

Hospitals are fined £250 for each day a patient is kept in mixed-sex wards.

It means at least £665,000 of fines have been levied, although the sum could be higher as the data does not detail how long a breach has been for.

Monitoring

The government's drive on mixed-sex accommodation follows attempts by the previous administration to tackle the issue.

Labour ministers struggled, partly because large chunks of the NHS estate date back decades and proved hard to convert.

Extra money has now been ploughed in to the system to help build more single rooms to rectify this.

April marked the first month the new fining system was applied. Previously, the levels of fines varied considerably depending on the treatment and were inconsistently levied.

Over the past few months, the government has been publishing breach figures ahead of the start of the new fining system. These show the problem has been improving.

In December there were more than 11,000 breaches. By March that had fallen to under 5,500. However that has to be seen in the context of the one million-plus patients seen each month.

Single-sex accommodation means patients sharing sleeping, bathroom and toilet facilities only with people of the same sex.

The rules do allow wards to be segregated into distinct bays as long as they have separate facilities.

They apply to all trusts from acute hospitals to mental health units. Only intensive care and A&E are excused.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the downward trend was pleasing, but there were "still too many breaches".

He added all the fines would be reinvested back into patient care.

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