An NHS hospital has been fined £135,000 after a 350 per cent increase in breaches of rules banning mixed sex wards.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust recorded 809 breaches of mixed-sex accommodation rules in the 12 months ending in August – up from 177 the previous year.
The NHS says trusts are expected to have a “zero-tolerance” approach towards placing men and women on the same wards, which it says is essential for ensuring safety, privacy and dignity for patients.
Recent guidance says transgender patients, and those who consider themselves “non-binary” can choose to be treated on male or female wards, depending on how they identify.
Trusts are supposed to be fined £250 per patient each time they break the rules, which meant the Oxford trust faced penalties of up to £202,300.
However much of the enforcement is left to individual clinical commissioning groups, not all of whom sought to impose the fines, meaning the Oxford trust was fined £134,500 for the 12-month period.
Across the rest of the country, the total number of breaches fell by 65 per cent over the period.
The ban applies to sleeping accommodation, which includes any area where patients are admitted on beds or trolleys even if they do not stay overnight. But the figures exclude instances where mixed accommodation is considered justified, such as in intensive care.
Sam Foster, the trust’s Chief Nursing Officer at OUH, said “When people are admitted to hospital they have a right to same sex accommodation, and the trust is obliged through our contracts to provide this. “We consider every case individually, and balance the safety risks of our patients being in the right care environment against a mixed sex breach. If appropriate, we do this in conversation with our patients.” Over the 12 month period, the Oxford trust had the seventh highest number of breaches.
Frimley Health NHS Foundation trust had the worst figure, with 2,257 breaches, up from 1,367 the previous year.
The highest rise was at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals trust, with a 473 per cent rise in cases, from 259 to 1485.