THE John Radcliffe's hospital trust was fined £134,500 in 12 months due to a sharp rise in the number of times they broke a ban on mixed-sex wards.

The Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) recorded 809 breaches of mixed-sex accommodation rules between September 2018 and August 2019, according to NHS figures – up from just 177 the previous year.

NHS England guidance says trusts are expected to have a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach towards placing men and women on the same wards, which it says is essential for ensuring safety, privacy and dignity for patients.

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It added, however, that enforcement is left to individual Clinical Commissioning Groups, which plan and buy healthcare from trusts, who can waive the fine.

NHS trusts are supposed to be fined £250 per patient each time they break the rules, which meant OUH faced fines of up to £202,300.

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) confirmed it had not imposed a single fine on OUH for the period covered.

A spokesman for the hospital trust said fines paid had come from a mix of direct NHS England enforcement and neighbouring CCGs who commission care from the trust, including Buckinghamshire, Berkshire West and Nene.

Lucy Watson, chair of the Patient’s Association charity, said: “We are very concerned that so many people are still being placed in inappropriate hospital accommodation, many years after mixed-sex wards were supposedly abolished.”

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The ban applies to sleeping accommodation, which includes any area where patients are admitted on beds or trolleys even if they do not stay overnight.

But the figures exclude instances where mixed accommodation is considered justified, such as in intensive care.

Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at OUH, said: “When people are admitted to hospital they have a right to same sex accommodation, and the trust is obliged through our contracts to provide this.

“We consider every case individually, and balance the safety risks of our patients being in the right care environment against a mixed sex breach.

If appropriate, we do this in conversation with our patients."

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She said the majority of breaches were in the Critical Care Unit.

She explained: "When a patient no longer needs a critical care bed, we need to accommodate their ongoing care in a general ward. If we exceed this time window we declare this to the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Digital. This standard is currently under both national and local review.”