Number of times Barts Health broke mixed-sex ward rules revealed

Barts Health's Newham University Hospital. Picture: Sandra Rowse

Barts Health's Newham University Hospital. Picture: Sandra Rowse - Credit: Archant

The hospital trust for Newham and Tower Hamlets has faced fines of up to £62,500 in the 12 months to August 2019 for breaking rules that ban mixed-sex wards.

In that time, Barts Health NHS Trust recorded 250 breaches of the mixed-sex accommodation rules, according to NHS figures. That's a 17 per cent increase from the previous 12 months, which only saw 213 instances recorded.

NHS England guidance says trusts are expected to have a "zero-tolerance" approach towards mixed sex accommodation, which it says is essential for ensuring safety, privacy and dignity for patients.

It did, however, add that enforcement of the fines is left to individual clinical commissioning groups, which plan and buy healthcare from trusts, who could potentially decide to waive them.

NHS trusts are supposed to be fined £250 per patient each time they break the rules.

This would mean the Barts Health NHS Trust faced fines of £62,500 over the course of the year.

The figures do not include instances where mixed accommodation is considered justified, such as in intensive care.

A Barts Health spokeswoman said: "Breaches in the same-sex accommodation rule occur when patients in our critical care areas are fit to be moved to a specialist ward but no beds are available on a ward for their sex.

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"Patient safety is a top priority for the trust and there will be times when we need to ensure patients are placed in the most appropriate clinical setting, rather than in same-sex accommodation.

"Patients are always asked and kept fully informed of the situation and we ensure their dignity is maintained. We take the principles set out in the national guidance very seriously and are working hard on patient flow initiatives to reduce these occurrences."

Across England, more than 19,900 breaches were recorded over the same 12-month period, a 4.5 per cent increase on the previous year.

Lucy Watson, chair of the Patient's Association charity, said failing to follow the same-sex rules could cause additional anxiety for people already worried about being in hospital.

But the Nuffield Trust's Dr Sarah Scobie said an NHS stretched to capacity means often the alternative to mixed-sex wards is being left on a trolley or having treatment delayed.