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Hospital curtains to carry confidentiality warning

Bedside curtains at a major London hospital now carry messages warning staff that confidential conversations maybe overheard, thanks to an idea by matrons.

Signs saying: “Confidential conversation? You may be overheard” are attached to bed curtains at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The initiative aims to prompt all staff to think before they speak and was the idea of matrons Cathy Beaton, Janet Saunders, Anna Bruce, Alison Finch and Sam Abdul.

Ms Saunders said: “We hope it will remind staff that curtains are not a barrier to sound and whatever is being said at the bedside can be heard by other patients.”

The need to raise awareness was identified when the matrons looked in-depth at one of the questions from the national inpatients survey – “Did staff ever talk in front of you as if you were not there?”

Janet Saunders and Cathy Beaton

UCLH matrons: Janet Saunders (left) and Cathy Beaton (right)

They were told by patients they could overhear upsetting or confidential subjects being discussed on the wards.

Ms Beaton said: “When we spoke to patients on the wards some were concerned that they could hear conversations going on around them and had no control over what they heard. Patients were disconcerted as it meant that others could hear what was being said at their bedside too.”

She added: “That was a starting point for us and we hope the curtain message will remind staff in real time for the need to maintain confidentiality when talking at the bedside.”

The disposable curtains’ manufacturers are now supplying them with the new messages attached. They are available in every curtained area at University College Hospital and will soon be introduced across all the trust’s sites.


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Readers' comments (4)

  • What a shame such a measure with an obvious issue is needed when dealing with supposed intelligent people. I was in hospital myself some months ago and a lady in the next bed to me was told her cancer had returned to terminal status in a full ward without her husband present. Thankfully he complained before I did. I fear if your mentality is to not think who is listening before these new curtains were installed the same will be the case after. People need to be sanctioned for inappropriate behaviour and it to be widely known that is happening.

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  • Frankly if people are stupid enough to think curtains are sound proof they have no right to be on the Register....

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  • There needs to be a private interview room on every ward.

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  • Exactly Steve Holland. There's is no confidentiality on Dr's rounds or the idea of end of the bed handovers

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