NHS trust is criticised over mixed sex wards

THE NHS trust which runs the Conquest has been criticised for breaching rules on mixed sex wards more than 150 times in a single month – more than 12 per cent of the total cases across the whole country.

Figures released by the NHS revealed that East Sussex Healthcare Trust (ESHT), which run the hospital and the DGH in nearby Eastbourne, had 169 instances of patients being placed with members of the opposite sex in October alone .

And it was one of just 53 trusts out of a total of 167 to record any breaches at all – meaning 68 per cent managed a clean record.

Guidelines are in place to prevent people having to share mixed sex accommodation in a bid to protect individual patients’ dignity.

And to drive home the message, hospitals are now fined £250 per patient per day if they break the rules.

ESHT’s breaches account for 169 of the total nationwide figure of 1,244 – or 13 per cent – but just 16 happened at the Conquest, leaving the DGH near the top of the overall national table.

A spokesman for the hospitals said the results had been skewed by a busy few days and that it was not that 153 people had been housed in mixed sex wards because some people were counted as many as six times each during just a few hours.

They told the Observer: “There were a few days in October when there was a sudden surge in severely ill patients needing admission to the hospital.

“This led to one of our day units being used to admit inpatients requiring an operation.

“The trust is committed to minimising cancelled operations and, for this short period of time, exceptional measures were introduced to ensure patients requiring an operation could be admitted.

“While from a quality perspective, patients were cared for well, some patients had to change behind closed curtains into theatre gowns in order to go to theatre. This breached Department of Health guidelines of same-sex accommodation.”

Government health minister Simon Burns was unhappy at the number of breaches revealed by the study. He said, “Nobody should have to suffer the indignity of mixed-sex accommodation.

“Every unjustified breach is one too many and I urge those hospitals that have still to tackle this problem to look at the improvements in other hospitals and follow them.”

ESHT was also criticised earlier this year by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission, which highlighted a host of issues regarding patient dignity.