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NHS breaks mixed-sex wards rules 44,000 times in a year with patients at risk of humiliation and assault

The use of mixed-sex wards has gone “through the roof” after the number of men and women being put in beds next to each other soared to nearly its highest level in a decade.

Official figures from NHS England show the government’s strict rules against doing so were broken nearly 5,000 times in February alone.

NHS leaders voiced concerns over the high number of breaches and warned that care that was “unthinkable a decade ago is at risk of becoming the new normal”.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said patients were left feeling humiliated and at risk, adding: “The use of mixed-sex wards has gone through the roof under the Tories.”

The government outlawed mixed wards in the NHS in 2010. Under the guidance, patients should not share wards overnight, share bathroom facilities or have to walk through areas occupied by patients of the opposite sex to get to the toilets.

Despite promises more than a decade ago to eliminate mixed wards, The Independent found:

  • 4,811 reported breaches in February, up from 3,789 last November
  • Nurses warning “sky-high breaches” are the tip of the iceberg
  • Evidence that patients are suffering sexual assaults while on mixed mental health wards

Under the guidance, no mental health units should have mixed wards. However, earlier this year, The Independent revealed the practice is widespread, with more than 500 sexual assaults reported across almost half of the NHS mental health hospitals in England.

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Source: Independent, 28 April 2024


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