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Friday 20th April 2018

Hospital wards too noisy

2nd December 2009

Wards in NHS hospitals are too noisy, according to new studies.


Experts say noise levels in many hospitals disturb patients’ sleep, impede their recovery and breach recommended limits.

Studies at the Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton and the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation found noise came from the conversation of visitors and mobile phones.

World Health Organisation levels say 35 decibels is a maximum for ward noise but the research suggests that is often between 60dB and 100dB.

Average noise levels on a general medical ward at Taunton were over 60dB, even at night, while at Newcastle they ranged between 40dB and 100dB.

Care Quality Commission surveys have shown that patients are often concerned about noise from other patients or staff.

Nurse consultant in critical care Annette Richardson led the Newcastle study.

She said: "Hospitals can be very noisy places. Dropping a stainless steel bowl creates 108 dBs, which is more than the 100 dBs from a nearby car horn or chainsaw."

But mobile phones proved to be a consistent problem.

Dr Anna Hutchings led the Taunton research which is to be presented to the British Thoracic Society.

Both centres were asked to introduce simple noise reduction levels such as wearing softer soled shoes, switching mobile phones to vibrate and restricting visitor times.

The Journal of Clinical Nursing reported both showed reductions in noise levels.

Michael Summers of the Patients Association said: "If everyone made a concerted effort - that applies to patients and staff - it could reduce noise levels and make wards more peaceful places."


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