Rise in patients sharing mixed-sex wards at Royal Lancaster Infirmary as pressures mount

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
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Patients at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary have had to share mixed-sex wards as pressures increase on the system.

Data released this week shows that last month, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) breached NHS standards about mixed-sex patient accommodation by four times the national rate.

The data released by the NHS shows that the trust, which runs the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Westmorland General Hospital and Furness General Hospital, breached the NHS’s own standards 18 times.

Of these, 10 were at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and eight were at Furness General Hospital.

This gave the trust a breach rate of two per 1,000 patients – four times higher than the national average of 0.5.

Foluke Ajayi, chief operating officer at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT), said: “We understand that being in mixed-sex hospital accommodation can be difficult for some patients for a variety of personal and cultural reasons, and wherever possible, we do all we can to respect that.

“As a trust, we have worked hard to eliminate mixed-sex accommodation from our hospitals, except where it is in the overall best interests of the patient or reflects their personal choice.

“NHS guidelines show that there are some circumstances where having mixed-sex accommodation can be justified, such as where patients need highly specialised care, such as the care given in Critical Care Units.

“All of the cases reported by our trust occurred in our Critical Care Units, as opposed to general wards.

“The breaches occurred as a result of operational pressures experienced when previously critically ill patients have recovered sufficiently to be moved onto a general ward, but delays arise in moving them into a general bed.

“We do try to ensure mixed-sex breaches do not happen, even in our Critical Care Units, but sometimes, due to significant pressures, on our hospitals, this is unavoidable.

“These pressures are not related to the pressures we are experiencing within the emergency departments.

“However, we accept that this is not in the best interest of patients and we are working hard with our partners in health and social care locally to do all we can to relieve the pressures on our hospitals, and hopefully, reduce the number of mixed-sex breaches.”