The use of mixed-sex wards at a Southampton hospital has soared – despite it being banned.

University Hospital Southampton (UHS) has repeatedly broken the government’s strict rule this year alone.

Official figures from NHS England revealed that UHS – which runs the General Hospital – has recorded 527 breaches in 2024 so far.

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The use of mixed wards within the NHS was banned in 2010, with hospitals prohibited from allowing patients of the opposite sex to share wards or bathrooms.

But UHS has recorded some of the highest numbers of mixed sex accommodation (MSA) breaches in the country.

(Image: Newsquest)

A total of 125 were recorded in January, while in February the figure jumped to 130.

In March, 134 MSA breaches occurred with 138 in April, according to the latest data.

This staggering figure is a stark contrast to that of neighbouring hospitals.

Portsmouth Hospital Trust recorded 35 breaches this year and Solent NHS Trust has recorded none.

When the ban was initially implemented by the NHS, a hospital would have to pay a fine of £250 per breach - but this has since been scrapped.

If the fine still existed, UHS would be facing a potential fine of £34,500 in April 2024 alone, and a fine of £131,750 for the whole of 2024 so far.

But the data is recorded in such a way that this does not mean there were 527 separate breaches; for example, one person on a different sex ward would be recorded as the number of people in that ward in total. 

The trust stands firm by the fact the ultimate aim is to prevent this from occurring. 

Commenting on the figures, Jason Brady, head of medical negligence at Blackwater Law, which analysed the data from trusts across the country, said: “Mixed-sex accommodation breaches on NHS wards pose serious issues, leading to a profound loss of privacy and dignity for patients.

“It is crucial to maintain single-sex wards not only to comply with policies but to uphold the fundamental principles of providing a safe, secure, and respectful environment for all patients."

As reported by the Independent, breaches across the UK are almost as high as the 4,929 seen in February 2020 when the NHS was battling rampant cases of Covid-19.

When hospitals breach the rule, they are required to report it to the NHS.

And only in very few circumstances is mixed accommodation allowed, such as urgent admission to critical care.

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A spokesperson from UHS said their priority is to care for all patients in an appropriate environment for their medical need.

A spokesperson said: "As one of the country’s largest acute hospital trusts, there will be occasions where we have to make short-term alternative arrangements in the interests of patient safety.

"The availability of hospital beds is impacted during periods of extreme hospital pressure and when there are higher numbers of emergency admissions which affects the flow of patients from our emergency and critical care wards to other areas of the hospital.

"While we make every effort to ensure patients are cared for in single sex accommodation,  when this happens it is not always possible; however, we always aim to move them as soon as it is clinically safe to do so.”