The Health Service Journal (HSJ) has obtained figures on the number of sexual assaults reported each year on mixed-sex mental health wards in England. The publication notes that the hundreds of assaults make it clear that investment is badly needed to protect patients and improve facilities.

HSJ figures, obtained via freedom of information (FOI) requests, showed there there was at least 1,019 reports of sexual assaults between men and women on mixed wards from April 2017 to October 2019. In comparison, over the same time period there were just 286 reports of incidents on single-sex mental health wards.

In December 2018, Sir Simon Wesselys review of the Mental Health Act recommended changes to the definition of single-sex accommodation to ensure wards are “genuinely” single sex. The current rules were considered to be too weak.

Charity mental health provider misled CQC

The 2018 review noted that the definition of ‘single sex accommodation’ needs to make sure that sleeping accommodation, bathrooms and daytime spaces are genuinely single sex, with optional mixed sex daytime space available.

HSJ reported that data from the FOI requests found there are hundreds of mixed-gender wards and communal areas still in use. Of the trusts which responded, there was a total of 668 mixed-sex wards and 803 mixed-sex communal areas.

The Department of Health and Social Care has not yet changed its definition of single-sex accommodation in line with the December 2018 review, and did not respond to HSJ when asked if it would change its definition.

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