Johnson pledges £100m to abolish mixed-sex wards

Mental health and older people’s charities have welcomed the government’s £100m pledge to abolish mixed-sex accommodation on hospital wards.

From April 2011, hospitals failing to provide segregated facilities will not be paid for their care unless they can “clinically justify” the practice.

Twelve-year delay

Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer said the delays in eliminating mixed-sex wards, which the Labour government promised to do in its 1997 manifesto, had been “unacceptable”.

Health secretary Alan Johnson acknowledged there had been “real, practical difficulties” in implementing the policy, and explained the £100m in ring-fenced funding would help some trusts overcome those.

Patients’ privacy

Pledging to send improvement teams into hospitals that needed support over the next six months, Johnson yesterday vowed to deliver a lasting solution to the problem.

 “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.”

Farmer welcomed the announcement of new funding, while Paul Cann, director of policy and external relations for Help the Aged, said scrapping mixed-sex bathrooms should be a priority.

Mental health patients “at risk”

Farmer said the safety and comfort of vulnerable people in mental health in-patient services had been compromised for too long.

“Over three-quarters of female mental health inpatients were treated in mixed sex accommodation last year – this is an unacceptable state of affairs and it is only right that this scandal is at last being addressed.”

The Healthcare Commission published its latest Count Me In census, a survey of patients in mental health and learning disability services in England and Wales, in November 2008. It found more than two-thirds of patients were forced to share wards with members of the opposite sex, and urged commissioners “to address this as a matter of high priority”.

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