A RULE preventing patients of different sexes from being treated on the same ward was not broken at Barnsley Hospital over a six-month period - as the trust bucked a national trend.
Hospitals have been expected to eliminate mixed-sex wards - except in justified situations, such as in intensive care - since 2010.
In April 2021, a policy to fine trusts a blanket rate of £250 for each breach of the rules was also dropped by the NHS.
The single-sex rules apply to sleeping accommodation, which includes any area where patients are admitted on beds or trolleys even if they do not stay overnight.
The Patients Association said mixed-sex wards are ‘an affront to patients’ dignity’, claiming the stress they cause prohibits a strong recovery.
NHS England data shows a rule preventing different sexes from mixing on wards at Barnsley Hospital was not broken in the six months to March whatsoever - down from two times in the same period the year before.
In the six months to March 2019 before the pandemic, there were also no breaches.
However, the number of breaches across England has soared since the coronavirus pandemic began, with March seeing the second-highest number since 2011/12.
Nationally, there were almost 4,500 instances where mixed-sex rules were broken in March - the second-highest single month since 2011/12 and more than triple the 1,446 instances recorded in March 2019.
Recording breaches was suspended from March 2020 to September 2021 due to the pandemic, but when logging rule-breaking returned, there were 2,289 occurrences, while every month since this past December has topped 4,000.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Mixed sex wards are an affront to patients’ dignity.
“No patient wants to receive intimate, personal care on a mixed sex ward, and it’s the sort of stress that doesn’t promote recovery.”
Jessica Morris, a fellow at independent health think tank the Nuffield Trust, said: “These situations will be distressing for patients, but staff are left with little choice.
“Breaches for mixed-sex accommodation were unfortunately already common across NHS trusts before the pandemic and are a symptom of hospitals running constantly close to capacity.
“The impact of Covid has seen performance against many targets slip further out of reach.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “Offering single-sex accommodation is a requirement under the NHS Standard Contract.
“Trusts across the country are taking action to reduce or eliminate unjustified breaches, which remain rare.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson added that the expect all trusts to ensue that all measures aren’t broken.
“We have been clear patients should not have to share sleeping accommodation with others of the opposite sex,” they said.
“Patients should have access to segregated bathroom and toilet facilities, and we expect NHS trusts to comply with these measures.”