Thousands of pounds in fines for mixed-sex wards at Conquest

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HOSPITAL bosses are facing thousands of pounds worth of fines because men and women have had to share the same wards at the Conquest.

NHS trusts are ordered to pay £250 per patient each day they break rules which stipulate that male and female patients should sleep in separate bays.

The new regulations came into force on April 1 by the Department of Health.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest on The Ridge, together with Eastbourne DGH, has had 94 breaches in total since April 1, totalling fines of at least £23,500.

The organisation is already struggling to clear a £6million debt amassed over the last year.

Hospitals now have to provide separate sleeping, bathroom and toilet facilities.

Wards do not have to be single-sex but patients should be kept in bays divided by a partition.

Patients are also not expected to have to walk past people of the opposite sex to get to toilet or washing facilities.

Tom Gurney, trust spokesman, said: “We and the commissioners have agreed that for 2011/12 any fines which are the result of mixed sex breaches will be reinvested into the trust to improve patient care.

“The privacy and dignity of patients is a high priority for the trust and we do everything we can to provide single-sex accommodation for patients.

“We spent £115,000 to improve the privacy and dignity of patients in the Medical Assessment Unit at the Conquest Hospital by creating dedicated male and female areas on the unit.

“It was one of a number of schemes across the trust to improve facilities for the privacy and dignity of patients. These included new curtains around beds, with woven privacy and dignity reminders to staff and the refurbishment of bathrooms to provide dedicated male and female areas.”