Hospital fines for mixed-sex wards
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged to fine NHS hospitals for failing to end the use of mixed-sex wards as part of a renewed drive to tackle the long-running issue.
The Cabinet minister said he was not prepared for hospitals to be paid for providing a "sub-standard" service and patients had the right to dignity and privacy.
"Our expectation is that all hospitals across the country should declare that they are now compliant with the criteria for only putting patients into single-sex accommodation, except where there is an emergency reason to do so," he told BBC Breakfast.
"Where they breach those rules, the point is we are not going to pay hospitals for providing a sub-standard service. We will make it clear in the new year that every hospital will report on their compliance with the new standards on single-sex accommodation.
"Patients have a right to expect that they have dignity and privacy. If there is a breach of that, that too will be published, so everybody will be held to account for this."
Mr Lansley said the plans would be set out in the Department of Health Operating Framework setting out health service priorities for next year. The strengthened enforcement will operate from April, three months after the coalition's initial target for having only single-sex accommodation.
Mr Lansley said in August that it would be ended in all but accident and emergency and intensive care units by the end of the year.
Under his plans, hospitals face losing part of the funding for a patient if they have to share with the opposite sex unless they have consented to it - with those facilities failing to comply being named and shamed.
Shared bathrooms and toilets will be deemed unacceptable as well as the need to pass through areas occupied by the opposite sex, the Daily Telegraph reported.
A panel of senior officials will judge whether cases reported via a special software system are justified, with bed and staff shortages not accepted as a reasonable excuse.