THE TRUST in charge of running hospitals in the county will not be facing a fine of £148,500 for breaching a ban on placing patients in mixed-sex wards.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust broke the rules 594 times in the last 12 months – one of the highest numbers in England – meaning it could have been be hit with a hefty fine.

The number of breaches was an increase on the 589 instances recorded in the previous year.

NHS trusts are supposed to be fined £250 per patient each time they break the rules.

NHS England guidance says trusts are expected to have a “zero-tolerance” approach towards mixed sex accommodation, which it says is essential for ensuring safety, privacy and dignity for patients.

However, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Worcestershire, which plan and purchase healthcare from trusts, are left to enforce the fines and could potentially decide to waive them.

A spokesman for the Trust said: “We make every effort to protect our patients’ privacy and dignity and that includes a zero tolerance approach to the use of mixed sex accommodation.

“However, at times of very high demand, it is sometimes necessary, in the interest of patient safety, to use all available beds even where that may be in breach of the guidance.

“This does leave us liable to potential fines, which would be imposed by our local CCGs.

“The CCGs monitor our performance very closely and we provide them with all relevant information in an open and transparent way.

“However, under the current contractual arrangement with our Worcestershire CCGs, these penalties are not imposed on us by them. This does not in any way lessen our commitment to reducing mixed sex breaches but it does mean that money which might otherwise be needed to pay fines can be invested in further improvements to patient care.

“The arrangement with Worcestershire CCGs covers around 85 per cent of the patients affected.

“Where patients from other CCG areas are affected by a mixed sex breach, we negotiate a settlement with the relevant CCG directly.”

Rules have been in place since 2011 to ensure patients only sleep in single-sex accommodation.

The figures do not include instances where mixed accommodation is considered justified, such as in intensive care.

The hospitals trust was faced with a similar fine last year but the county’s CCGs decided not to impose the fines.