Hospital fined more than £10,000 for placing patients in mixed-sex accommodation

PUBLISHED: 18:00 28 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:38 28 June 2018

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

A Norfolk hospital has been fined more than £10,000 for placing patients in mixed-sex wards.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust recorded 62 instances of mixed-sex accommodation between April 2017 and March 2018.

But a hospital spokesman said many of the breaches were a result of added pressure during the most difficult winter in its history.

Rules have been in place since 2011 to ensure that patients only have to sleep in single-sex accommodation, which campaigners say is vital for protecting patients’ dignity.

Hospital trusts that breach the rules by placing a patient in accommodation with the opposite sex face a £250 fine each time.

This meant the QEH faced a total bill of £15,500 for the 62 breaches.

But a spokesman from the QEH said levies for the breach were suspended from January 2018 to March 2018 during the winter crisis. A further six breaches in April 2018, which would have equated to £1,500 in fines, were also suspended.

This leaves the total costs of fines at £10,250.

Claire Roberts, the hospital’s associate director of patient experience, said: “The trust has experienced some difficulties during the year in accessing an immediately available vacant bed when patients have been declared sufficiently recovered to transfer from the critical care unit to a lower dependency bed on a general ward.

“In this situation the trust is required to declare a breach of the mixed sex accommodation guidelines as the critical care unit is an open plan area where beds are separated by dividers rather than in gender-specific bays. All the breaches throughout the year fall into this category.”

According to data from NHS England, the hospital’s worst performance was in March 2018, when 12 patients were placed in mixed-sex wards.

Campaign group The Patients Association said it is concerned about increasing numbers of rule breaches.

Chairman Lucy Watson said: “You may get elderly or confused people who get hot and throw their gowns off in their sleep.

“They are going to be much happier knowing that they did that in a room full of people of the same sex rather than the opposite.

“People need to feel that their privacy and dignity are being properly attended to.”

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