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Noise levels 'too high' on wards


Hospital visitors chatting and people talking on their mobile phone are creating far too much noise for recovering patients, a study has found.

Research claims such noise could “stress out” patients and diminish their chance of restful sleep.

Noise levels on a general medical ward were monitored by a team from Musgrove Park Hospital, Somerset.

World Health Organization guidelines state that patients should not be exposed to noise levels higher than 35 decibels.

But the study, carried out over a two-week period during the night and day, found noise levels were more than 25 decibels higher than the recommendation.

During the day, noise was typically 65 decibels, and 62.5 at night.

But when new measures were introduced - such as bringing in quiet-closing bins, closing the doors to bays at night and restricting visitors to designated times, noise levels dropped considerably.

The amount of time that noise levels exceeded 60 decibels was cut from 82% to 76%, with the greatest impact at night (75% to 59%).

Particular complaints among patients related to the use of mobile phones on the ward.

The research will be presented at The British Thoracic Society’s annual meeting in London.

Lead author Dr Anna Hutchings said: “Our research shows that simple, cost effective measures, such as quiet closing bins and patient and visitor education, can result in quieter wards.”


Readers' comments (3)

  • i fully agress with the research. i work on a busy medical ward, we have three specialities as well as generl medical patients. this means that during the day we have up to eight dr.s on the ward and three phone lines ringing constantly. As well as other staff such as physio's, ot's etc and of course the nursing staff. I suffer from depression and find that noisy enviroments affect my ability to cope. i therefore prefer to work nights. i feel more should be done to reduce noisy and therefore help patients recover quicker and discharged earlier, which is what our trust is always trying to achieve.

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  • i work on a busy medical unit I think we are too soft visitors should only be allowed on the ward at set times only 2 to a bed ok if you have a patient that is unwell let there family in we do care.

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  • I work on a elective orthopaedic ward and have always thought that the phones and staff discussions should be carried on behind glass to prevent the noise carrying through the ward. for various resons the "higher ups" have always said this cannot be allowed. My reply is why not? The policy of being always available for the patient if they come up to the nurses desk can still apply if the staff can go to the other side of the glass when they see a patient/relative approaching. I feel that the mind set among clinical staff is that only the current system of open plan is suitable. The retinue of consultants and doctors have their own offices and discussion rooms around the ward areas; there is no need for them to block up the nurses work space, and consequently add to the ward noise.

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