A rule preventing patients of different sexes from sharing the same ward was breached thousands of times at the Wye Valley Trust over a six-month period, figures reveal.

The Patients Association said the violations are an “affront to patients’ dignity”, and added that it is concerned over an increase in breaches nationally.

Hospitals have been expected to eliminate mixed-sex wards – except in justified situations, such as in intensive care – since 2010.

But NHS England figures show that between October and March, Wye Valley NHS Trust recorded 2,257 breaches of mixed-sex accommodation rules.

This was compared to 73 breaches in the five months between October 2019 and February 2020 – the latest comparable period.

Data was not recorded between March 2020 and September 2021 because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

And in April 2021, a policy to fine trusts a blanket rate of £250 for each breach of the rules was also dropped by the NHS.

The single-sex rules apply to sleeping accommodation, which includes any area where patients are admitted on beds or trolleys even if they do not stay overnight.

Across England, 16,576 breaches were recorded between October and March – up from 12,947 between October 2019 and February 2020, and the highest number for the period since 2010-11.

Between October 2014 and March 2015, there were just 1,740 breaches nationally.

The Patients Association said it understands the challenges the NHS faced during the pandemic, but it must now restore services to pre-Covid levels.

At the Wye Valley Trust, the breach rate in March was 43.4 per 1,000 – up from 38.4 in February.

An NHS spokesman said: “The reported breaches illustrate the ongoing pressures on NHS providers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“NHS staff work hard to maintain our patients’ privacy, dignity and safety – and most trusts have eliminated breaches.”