Overall, 7,771 patients stayed in mixed-sex NHS wards between April 2016 and March 2017 – compared with 5,309 in 2015/2016 and 2,655 in 2014/2015.
There were 776 breaches of the Mixed Sex Accommodation guidance in relation to NHS patients in England during March 2017, up from 710 the month before.
Of the 151 Acute Trusts that submitted data for last month’s report, 111 (74 per cent) reported no mixed ward sleeping breaches.
But the remaining Acute Trusts were responsible for all 776 breaches with Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust the worst offender at 195 incidents were men and women were forced to share sleeping and bathroom facilities.
The rise – against NHS rules saying men and women should be treated on different wards – comes in the wake of repeated pledges from ministers to end the practice.
In 2010 hospitals were ordered to pay out £250 for every mixed-sex breach – defined as a night spent by a patient on a mixed-sex ward.
The move followed concern from patients groups that patients’ dignity had been compromised, with female patients left feeling particularly vulnerable. Research has shown that those on mixed sex wards are at greater risk of attack.
Initially, the penalties worked, and the figures fell from almost 19,000 in 2009 to a record low of 2,585 in 2014. But over the past two years they have started to climb as busy hospitals come under pressure.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive at the Patients Association, said: “Single-sex wards are an important component of preserving patient dignity in hospitals.
“It is really concerning that there has been a sharp increase in the number of patients being placed on mixed-sex wards, as a result of mounting hospital pressures.
“Protecting standards of patient safety must remain at the very heart of the NHS, and eliminating mixed-sex hospital accommodation is central part of this.”
And MP Norman Lamb, health spokesman for the Liberal Democrat party which analysed the NHS data, said: “Far from being eliminated, the number of patients being forced to stay in single-sex accommodation has tripled since this Conservative government came to power.
“This is a major embarrassment for Jeremy Hunt and yet another sign of the impossible pressure our NHS is under.
“The progress we made in reducing mixed-sex wards during the coalition government is now completely unravelling.
“Men and women should never be forced to share hospital wards in a modern health service. It is an affront to basic human dignity.”
In 2012, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said mixed-sex wards had been “virtually eliminated” telling the Conservative Party Conference the next year that they were “virtually gone”.
And in 2015, then Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We said that we would sort out mixed-sex wards and hospital-acquired infections—promise delivered.”
A spokesperson for NHS Improvement said: “The latest data shows a big reduction in the number of patients being looked after in mixed sex accommodation in recent years, but we want to see even more improvement.
“There are often legitimate reasons why people might be placed in mixed wards or bay because the safety and need to treat a patient urgently must take priority.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Since 2010, there has been a fall from almost 12,000 patients a month in mixed-sex accommodation to only 776 in March.
“All patients deserve to be treated with dignity and respect – any hospital that places patients in mixed-sex accommodation can face fines of £250 per patient, per day.”