HUNDREDS of patients at Great Western Hospital are being placed on mixed-sex wards despite an NHS-wide ban.

The hospital recorded 782 breaches of the rule against allowing men and women to be accommodated on the same ward – and could have faced hefty fines of up to £195,500.

Hospital trusts are supposed to be fined £250 per breach as NHS guidance outlines a “zero-tolerance” approach but the town’s clinical commissioning group decided to waive the fines.

High demand is being blamed for the rising number of times that this rule has been broken - December saw 91 breaches in one month, a record high.

Chair of the Patients' Association charity Lucy Watson said

: “We are very concerned that so many people are still being placed in inappropriate hospital accommodation, many years after mixed-sex wards were supposedly abolished.

“Patients deserve to be treated with dignity, and at a time when many will be feeling frail or vulnerable, it is vital that they feel some sense of privacy and safety.

“Patients shouldn’t find themselves in a bed next to a member of the opposite sex, particularly if they need to use a bedpan, or have intimate care.”

A Great Western Hospital spokeswoman said: “Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group does not fine the trust, but instead works with us to improve the flow of patients through the hospital, so patients are able to leave hospital as soon as they are well enough and beds remain available for new patients.

“While maintaining the privacy and dignity of our patients is a priority, when we are very busy we may begin a patient’s care in a mixed sex acute assessment area before they are moved to a ward.

“Patients are always cared for in single-sex bays on our wards and we protect each patient’s privacy and dignity in other areas using curtains when needed.”

Meanwhile, the Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust recorded just two occasions where patients of different sexes were on the same ward and did not break the ban at all in 2018.

Enforcement of the fines is left to individual CCGs which plan and buy healthcare from trusts.

The ban applies to sleeping accommodation, which includes any area where patients are admitted on beds or trolleys even if they do not stay overnight.

It does not include instances where mixed accommodation is considered justified, such as in intensive care.