The essential stories and debate in the NHS

Double trouble

The number of mixed sex ward breaches more than doubled over the last two years, prompting concerns from senior NHS managers about care quality and patient dignity.

NHS England’s latest mixed sex breaches data showed there were 969 breaches in September – a breach rate of 0.6 per 1,000 finished consultant episodes.

This compares with 607 breaches reported in September 2016, a breach rate of 0.4 per 1,000 FCEs, and more than double the 415 breaches in September 2015, a breach rate of 0.3 per 1,000 FCEs.

NHS Providers said there was a risk hard fought gains on the problem, which health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged in 2012 to eliminate, were being lost and the breaches were an important “reminder” that stretched resources were leading to quality concerns.

Ddirector of policy and strategy Saffron Cordery said: “The rising number of breaches for mixed sex accommodation is a reminder that when resources are overstretched there is a risk that the quality of care and patient experience may be affected.

“Trusts have worked extremely hard to tackle this problem. Respect for patients’ privacy and dignity is always a priority, and no one wants to see these numbers going up.”

When data collections on mixed sex breaches began in December 2010, the figure was significantly higher. There were 11,802 breaches at a breach rate of 8.4.

However, Mr Hunt pledged a major crack down. He told the 2012 Conservative party conference mixed sex wards had been “virtually eliminated” and that by the following year they would be “virtually gone”.

Opening up the pension pot

The government has launched a consultation to make it easier for independent providers and organisations involved in new care model and accountable care contracts to have access to the NHS pension scheme.

As part of the move to new care models across the country, the government intends to extend access to the NHS pension for the employees of organisations providing NHS funded care.

The changes are designed to support the rollout of changes outlined in the Five Year Forward View. The rules will apply to accountable care organisations and any subcontracts they hold with providers, including independent sector companies.

Multispecialty community provider and primary and acute care system contracts will be included in the changes.

Under the ACO model and integrated services contracts, some providers would shift from holding contracts directly with commissioners to having contracts with a lead provider. In October 2016, the Department of Health consulted on changing pension scheme regulations but these changes were withdrawn “because of timing issues with finalisation of the MCP framework.”

Now the DH has revived the changes with updates to include the newly published ACO framework.