By Daniel Martin
Last updated at 12:37 AM on 4th May 2010 The Daily Mail
were forced to spend nearly 20,000 nights in mixed-sex accommodation last year
- despite Labour claims to have ‘virtually eliminated’ the wards.
More than a decade after Tony Blair proclaimed it should not be ‘beyond the collective wit’ of the NHS to make sure patients are treated on single-sex wards, dozens of hospitals still separate men and women with nothing more than a curtain.
And thousands of patients are also forced to suffer the indignity of sharing bathrooms and toilets with members of the opposite sex.
Indignity: Since 1997, Labour has promised to abolish mixed sex wards. But figures show patients were forced to spend nearly 20,000 nights in mixed-sex accommodation last year
the abject failure to put an end to the shame of mixed-sex wards is further
evidence that Labour has failed to spend wisely the billions of extra pounds it
has poured into the NHS.
Freedom of Information requests by the Conservatives reveal that last year there were almost 18,685 breaches of rules which stipulate that patients are segregated by sex.
And patients feel the situation is getting worse - the number of complaints about privacy and dignity soared by 13 per cent last year to more than 1,100.
The figures collected from NHS trusts reveal that almost half of all hospitals still use bays to segregate patients, rather than always ensuring the different sexes are on different wards.
One in six use flimsy partitions on some wards, while one in nine have wards on which patients are only separated by curtains.
This is despite Government guidance saying these practices are unacceptable.
Conservative analysis also reveals that 5 per cent of hospitals still have
old-fashioned Victorian style wards which are shared by men and women - meaning
they are not even in different bays.
And in almost one in five hospitals, patients have to share toilet and washing facilities in some areas.
The findings come just a month after ministers claimed to have ‘virtually’ abolished mixed-sex wards.
Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley said: ‘Labour promised again and again that they would end the scandal of patients being forced to stay in mixed sex wards.
‘These figures show that they have failed. People will rightly ask how they can believe anything that the Labour Government promises after their repeated failure to deliver on ending the scandal of mixed sex wards.’
Labour has been promising since 1996 to scrap the wards. Last year the Department of Health launched a £100million ‘Privacy and Dignity Fund’ to pay for building work to ensure men and women are kept apart.
And just a few weeks ago, the current Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, claimed the NHS was close to ‘virtually eliminating’ mixed-sex wards.
He said that in all but 5 per cent of trusts, there were none at all – and that in the rest, action plans were in place to replace them.
At the time, Mr Burnham admitted that patients found mixed-sex wards ‘unsettling, uncomfortable and undignified’.
‘It is simply unacceptable for top quality treatment by our finest surgeons, doctors and nurses to be undermined by a sub-standard mixed sex environment,’ he added.
A spokesman for the Labour Party said: ‘It is surprising that the Conservatives have chosen this week to highlight the fact that in 1997, thanks to their neglect of the Health Service, mixed-sex accommodation was a major problem, and that now with Labour it has been virtually eliminated.’