Why Is Privacy Screening Important?

Every patient has a right to expect a reasonable level of privacy, confidentiality and dignity while they are in NHS care. Privacy when dressing, attending to personal hygiene or receiving care; confidentiality when discussing their condition and treatments with medical staff, and dignity when in suffering or during their last hours.

But the widespread use of open, multiple-bed wards means that ensuring this privacy is often a challenge for ward managers. Conventional hospital curtains are certainly a step in the right direction, but are they enough?

How Private Are Hospital Curtains?

As a visual barrier

Ceiling-suspended hospital curtains are generally installed with a gap of 9 – 15 inches between the bottom of the curtain and the floor, presumably for reasons of practicality.

  • When medical teams need to quickly address a medical emergency, they don’t want trailing curtain fabric getting entangled with bed wheels or the castors on freestanding medical equipment.
  • Low-hanging curtains are also an obstacle to floor cleaning and polishing equipment

However, this will reduce the patient’s privacy, which may also be compromised by:

  • Translucence. While hospital curtain fabrics are reasonably good at blocking light they aren’t entirely opaque and strong backlighting – for example, from a window or reading light – can create unwanted silhouettes.
  • Movement. Curtains are designed to be temporarily drawn to one side by staff entering and leaving a cubicle, but staff or equipment brushing against the curtain in a confined space can accidentally create a gap in the curtain.

As an audible barrier

Hospital curtains are primarily designed as a lightweight visual barrier and as such have poor sound-muffling properties, as anyone who has been an in-patient on an open ward will confirm.

From conversations between patients and medical staff to the audible bodily functions of the bed-bound, this lack of privacy causes embarrassment and discomfort on both sides of the curtain.

How Do Medical Privacy Screens Compare?

As a visual barrier

Medical Privacy Screens such as CleanScreen from Nojerm are constructed from solid panels that offer 100% opacity, even when backlit.

CleanScreen mobile screens are raised just 90 mm (just over 3.5 inches) from the floor, leaving ample space for floor cleaning yet presenting no trip hazard, and optimising patient privacy.

The system’s rigid panels and lockable castors prevent any gaps from appearing in the visual barrier, even in confined spaces.

As an audible barrier

The reduced gap between the panels and the floor, combined with CleanScreen’s multi-layered panel construction, means the system places excellent sound-deadening qualities at the heights where it is most needed.

This article is one of a series published by Nojerm, comparing the features and benefits of hospital curtains and medical privacy screens.

The purpose of this debate is to enable hospital facilities teams, ward managers and other healthcare professionals to make an informed decision on which offers the best solution to their needs.

To catch up on previous articles or to read the full debate from introduction to summary, follow: