OXFORD University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been fined £135,000 for breaching rules banning mixed-sex wards 809 times in the year ending August 2019. This was a 350 per cent increase from 177 the previous year.
The NHS says that Trusts must take a zero-tolerance approach to placing men and women on the same wards to ensure safety, privacy and dignity. Yet recently it said that transgender patients, and those who consider themselves ‘non-binary’, may choose to be treated on male or female wards, depending on how they identify.
Mixed wards have never been popular with the public for obvious reasons, hence politicians’ pledges to end the practice – until, conveniently, along came the ‘transgender’ issue, enabling them to defend mixed wards on the grounds that under the 2010 Equality Act they must not discriminate against trans individuals.
Although plans to allow individuals legally to self-identify as the sex of their own choice have apparently been shelved, public institutions, notably schools and hospitals, are acting as though the measure has been passed into law, doing everything they can to accommodate trans individuals even when no ‘transition’ process has been undertaken.
Hospitals are wasting time that could be spent caring for patients discussing which ward to place trans individuals in. Oxford Trust’s chief nursing officer Sam Foster commented: ‘When people are admitted to hospital they have a right to same-sex accommodation. We consider every case individually, and balance the safety risks of our patients being in the right care environment against a mixed-sex breach. If appropriate, we do this in conversation with our patients.’
Apparently, much of the enforcement of the mixed-ward ban is left to clinical commissioning groups, and not all have imposed fines, therefore results have been patchy. But in the end it is the patients who pay the price, and they pay it twice over, in having their privacy invaded, with all the loss of peace of mind that this entails, and in paying the taxes from which the NHS hospitals pay the fines. With the vast majority expected to pay for their own endangerment and humiliation, is it time to rename this pernicious piece of legislation the Inequality Act?