28 Jan 2009 11:24 AM
Financial penalties for hospitals who fail to tackle mixed sex accommodation

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by COI News Distribution Service. 28 January 2009

From next year hospitals that treat patients in mixed sex accommodation will not be paid for their care, Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced today. These tough new penalties are part of a package of measures being introduced in a new drive to virtually eliminate mixed sex accommodation and ensure it doesn't reappear.

The Department of Health's guidance to trusts is that men and women should not have to share sleeping accommodation or toilet facilities. From 2010/11 hospitals who fail to deliver this will face serious financial consequences - unless there is an overriding clinical justification.

The Health Secretary also announced that a £100million Privacy and Dignity Fund will be made available to support the NHS to make the necessary changes to virtually eliminate mixed sex accommodation.

The package of measures includes:

* Financial penalties for those hospitals where patients are treated in mixed sex accommodation - unless it can be clinically justified.

* A £100 million ring-fenced Privacy and Dignity Fund to help Trusts make swift adjustments to hospital accommodation.

* Improvement teams will be set up to go into hospitals that need support over the next six months.

* A greater focus on measuring and improving patient experience of mixed sex accommodation.

Speaking at the NHS Chairs conference in London, Alan Johnson said:

"People often feel at their most vulnerable when they are in hospital and being cared for in mixed sex accommodation can be deeply distressing. These measures will help to ensure that patients can be treated with the dignity and privacy they rightly expect.

"The message is clear - the NHS has taken great strides in reducing mixed sex accommodation over the last twelve years but now it must eliminate it altogether other than where clinically necessary. Hospitals who fail in their duty to protect patients' privacy will be financially penalised as we will not foot the bill for care that has taken place in mixed sex accommodation.

"I recognise that there are real, practical difficulties that some trusts need help to overcome and the new £100million fund will help provide the support they need to achieve this."

Chief Nursing Officer Christine Beasley said:

"Hospital staff must realise that being cared for in mixed sex accommodation can be very upsetting for patients particularly those that feel very vulnerable such as the elderly. Doctors and nurses have a clear duty to make sure that hospital patients are cared for in an environment which meets their clinical needs, and ensures that their privacy and dignity is maintained.

"We hope that by all but eliminating mixed sex accommodation we can dramatically improve patient experience".

The Privacy and Dignity Fund will be allocated to SHAs following submission of plans that set out how they intend to significantly reduce mixed sex accommodation. Plans will be submitted to the Department of Health by the end of February and the money will be allocated in April with the expectation that work has begun on the wards by the end of June.

Notes to Editors

1. For enquiries please contact 020 7210 4850.