Number of NHS patients treated on mixed sex wards doubles in a year

Rise comes despite Government ministers' promises to end the practice

Benjamin Kentish
Friday 18 August 2017 00:51 BST
More than 9,000 patients have been placed on mixed sex wards in the last year
More than 9,000 patients have been placed on mixed sex wards in the last year (Rex)

The number of NHS patients being treated in mixed sex wards rocketed in the last year, new figures reveal – despite ministers’ promises to eliminate the practice.

Statistics from NHS England show hospitals breached rules on mixed sex wards 908 times in July 2017 – more than twice as many as the 408 recorded in the same month last year.

A total of 9,004 patients were placed in mixed sex wards in the last year – 55 per cent more than in the previous 12 months.

The July figures mark the second highest number of breaches since January 2011 and more than a fivefold increase in the last three years.

It comes despite ministers having consistently promised to end the use of mixed sex wards in the NHS, which many patients find humiliating and inappropriate.

In 2013 Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, claimed mixed sex wards were “virtually gone”. Two years later, David Cameron claimed he had “delivered” on his promise to “sort our mixed sex wards”.

The 2015 Conservative manifesto promised: “We will ensure that English hospitals and GP surgeries are the safest in the world, places where you are treated with dignity and respect. We will continue to eliminate mixed-sex wards.”

Despite the number of patients being placed on mixed sex wards having soared in recent years, the 2017 Conservative manifesto contained no mention of plans to improve gender segregation in hospitals.

Labour said the new statistics highlighted an “unprecedented failure” by the Government.

Justin Madders, the party’s Shadow Health Minister, said: “Theresa May’s first year as Prime Minister has been characterised by a collapse in patient standards, with hospitals bursting at the seams and wards overstretched.

“This unprecedented failure on mixed sex wards has left thousands more patients humiliated and lacking the basic dignity and respect they expect when being treated in hospital.

Jeremy Corbyn blasts Theresa May's NHS record

“Shockingly, the Prime Minister even abandoned her party’s 2015 manifesto commitment to eliminate mixed sex accommodation breaches. Unlike the Tories, Labour will end the unacceptable practice of mixed sex wards and ensure our health service receives the funding it urgently needs.”

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Health spokesman, said:

“Under Theresa May’s watch, we’ve seen a scandalous rise in the number of patients being forced to stay in mixed-sex wards.

“Men and women shouldn’t have to share hospital wards, it’s an affront to basic human dignity.

“The Conservatives once pledged to end mixed-sex wards, now it seems they’ve given up. The Government must recommit to closing mixed-sex wards instead of turning a blind eye.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “All patients deserve to be treated with dignity and respect while in the care of the NHS and men and women shouldn’t be forced to share hospital accommodation.

“Whilst this month has seen slight increases, since 2010 mixed-sex accommodation breaches are down from almost 12,000 a month to less than 1,000 in July this year.”

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