Patients on mixed-sex wards can sue the NHS: Revamped charter also gives rights over end-of-life care

Patients could sue the NHS if they are forced into mixed sex wards under a revamp of the NHS constitution, it emerged yesterday.

The patients’ charter will also enshrine in law the need for patients and families to be consulted before a patient is put on an ‘end of life’ pathway.

Both moves by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt herald a major victory for patients and follow separate Daily Mail campaigns over the indignity of mixed sex accommodation and the controversial end-of-life treatment plans.

A ban on mixed wards comes nearly two decades after an initial pledge by then Tory Prime Minister John Major.  Just last year, half of all NHS trusts in England admitted they had placed patients in mixed rooms.

Since then, the Department of Health has introduced fines of £250 per patient, per day for hospitals still doing so.

But the new NHS constitution will leave patients in no doubt about their rights.  It will declare: ‘If you are admitted to  hospital, you will not have to share sleeping accommodation with patients of the opposite sex.’

It will also give reassurances to vulnerable patients, saying: ‘You have the right  to be involved fully in all discussions  and decisions about your health  and care, including in your end of life care, and to be given information to enable you to do this. Where appropriate this right includes your family and carers.’

'The right to be involved':The patient's charter will leave them in no doubt about their rights‘The right to be involved’:The patient’s charter will leave them in no doubt about their rights

Lib Dem Care Services Minister Norman Lamb said the new obligation would make ‘clear and explicit’ to patients and their families that they would be kept informed over end-of-life treatment.

He added that although there had been a ‘very substantial’ reduction in the number of patients on mixed sex wards, all patients had a right to expect single sex rooms.

Mr Lamb made clear that all  providers of NHS care would be legally bound to take account of the NHS constitution. ‘Ultimately, there could be a legal challenge if a provider was systematically failing to take account of the constitution,’ he added.

‘It provides much greater  force and again it restates the principle that you should have single-sex accommodation if you have NHS care.’


The government is consulting on enshrining the right to single sex wards in the NHS Constitution and forcing hospitals to respond to complaints within three working daysRespect for staff - or no treatment

You should treat NHS staff and other patients with respect and recognise that violence, causing a nuisance or disturbance on NHS premises could result in prosecution and that abusive or violent behaviour could result in you being refused access to the NHS.

Prompt apology if things go wrong

To ensure that if you are harmed while receiving healthcare you receive an appropriate explanation and apology, delivered with sensitivity and recognition of the trauma you have experienced, and know that where mistakes have been made, lessons will be learned to help avoid a similar incident occurring again, and to ensure that the organisation learns lessons from complaints and uses these to improve NHS services.

Decisions on end-of-life care

You have the right, to be involved fully in all discussions and decisions about your healthcare, including in your end of life care, and to be given information to enable you to do this. Where appropriate this right includes your family and carers.

Single sex wards

If you are admitted to hospital, you will not have to share sleeping accommodation with patients of the opposite sex, in line with details set out in the Handbook to the NHS Constitution.

He also explained that care providers would be obliged to consult patients on end-of-life care.

‘[The constitution] will now specifically refer to the importance of involvement, so I think it really does genuinely strengthen the obligation,’ he went on.

But Marie Curie Cancer Care argued that the Government should go further and called for the next independent national audit of the end-of-life Liverpool Care Pathway to be brought forward.

Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said he was disappointed that patients would still not be given a choice of whether to die at home or in a hospice.

He added: ‘While these changes are good as far as they go, I would like to see much more ambition from the Government on end-of-life care.

‘Far too many families in England find themselves spending their final hours with a loved-one in a hospital.

Many would much rather be together at home or in a hospice. This more personal approach can also cost much less.

The Mail has highlighted concerns about relatives not being consulted when their loved ones are being put on the LCP.

The pathway means patients deemed close to death are sedated and denied nutrition and fluids by tube – but many families have come forward to complain that this happens without discussion with relatives of those involved.

Last month the family of Margaret Kibble, 95, told how hospital staff allegedly removed all her drips and feeding tubes without any consultation after she was admitted to hospital in Lewisham in January 2011.

When family members heard her begging for water they demanded that doctors put the great-grandmother back on food and fluids.

Nearly two years later, she is still alive and back home.

Last night her son Graham Satchell, 57, welcomed the announcement and said: ‘We applaud any changes that mean hospitals talk more with families.

In some cases the Liverpool Care Pathway is the right thing to do, but families need to be told the fors and against.’

How The Mails campaign Led The Way

Former nurse Jane Taylor, 57, claims that she only found out that doctors had sedated her mother and withdrawn food and fluids when she caught a glimpse of her medical notes on a windowsill.

But it was too late to stop the process and 83-year-old Phyllis Nicholls, who was being treated at a hospital in Surrey, died.

Last night Mrs Taylor said: ‘This is a very good idea because older people are scared of going into hospital at the moment.’

But Imelda Redmond, director of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie, said: ‘The Liverpool Care Pathway has enabled thousands to experience dignified care in the last days of life. We have become increasingly concerned about the media coverage which reports negative experiences of people in hospital and the end of life.

‘That is why we are calling for the next independent national audit to be brought forward so that we can identify as soon at possible where these failings are taking place.’


Abusive patients face being thrown out of hospitals and denied treatment under reforms to the NHS ‘bill of rights’.

Repeat offenders will be barred from trusts or doctors’ surgeries in a similar way to unruly pupils who are excluded from school. Some 60,000 NHS workers a year are violently assaulted.

But almost 70 per cent of the attacks involve patients who are not responsible for their actions due to underlying conditions such as mental health problems.

Proposed changes to the NHS constitution will allow staff to refuse to treat violent patients but only ‘if it is safe to do so’.

Care minister Norman Lamb said: ‘It is important to understand we have responsibilities as well as rights and we should be treating professionals with respect. It is a two-way street.’

Fewer than one in 40 attacks on NHS staff end in prosecution. Hospitals and GPs can already ban abusive patients according to their local policy but this is the first time a national guideline has been put in place.

Peter Carter, of the Royal College of Nursing union, said: ‘We agree with the sentiment in principle but it is another thing putting it into practice. We are not going to fling out a person if they have a very major ailment and they are being abusive.’

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