Leicester hospitals face fine for same-sex ward breaches

Leicester's NHS hospital trust could be fined £132,000 after breaking government rules on single-sex care.

The University of Leicester NHS Trust asked men and women to share the same ward 178 times in December.

The trust said in normal circumstances patients are segregated, however December saw a surge in patients as a result of cold weather and swine flu.

Leicester West MP Liz Kendall said the fine was "pointless" as it would amount to one part of the NHS fining another.

15,000 patients

"I think the top priority… is that people [who are ill] get seen. What need to do is sit down and make sure the money is used for patient care," Mrs Kendall said.

The trust would pay the fine to NHS Leicester City and NHS Leicestershire County and Rutland.

Carole Ribbins, director of nursing for the trust, said the three hospitals admitted 15,559 patients during December "with the freezing temperatures and swine flu adding to what is always a busy time of year".

She said that patients were usually put in male and female wards, but because of the unusual level of admissions, the staff had had no choice but to look after men and women in the same area.

"We still fully intend to be 100% compliant by the end of March in line with the national guidance," she said.

The breaches took place in the endoscopy unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary - which is being renovated to allow single-sex accommodation - and the emergency medical unit at Leicester General Hospital - which is now closed.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "These figures show an unacceptable level of breaches in which patient dignity has been compromised."

The department said the money from fines would be reinvested into patient care.

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