Hospitals face a constant struggle when it comes to infection prevention, with every surface and piece of equipment harbouring dangerous pathogens.

One such item that’s often overlooked in this war against healthcare-acquired infections (HCAIs) is the simple, yet necessary, privacy curtain.

The privacy curtain’s primary purpose is to provide privacy to the patient during personal procedures and personal care. However, while patient privacy is obviously a top consideration for hospitals, the infection risk posed by these pieces of equipment needs to be addressed.

Infection Problem

In general, traditional privacy curtains pose an infection problem because they cannot be wiped down and cleaned like other pieces of equipment. Moreover, the fact that privacy curtains require the carer to operate them by hand makes them a common source of contamination.

Research has revealed that surfaces in hospitals – specifically touch points, such as bedrails, sinks, countertops, privacy curtains, door handles, etc. – are common points of contamination. Even with protocol-driven laundering and housekeeping, re-contamination can occur.

In fact, privacy curtains can become contaminated within days or hours of being installed, and whether it’s MRSA, C Diff, E Coli, etc. these contaminants will remain a risk until the curtain is either washed or replaced.

But while the most common method of infection transmission involving privacy curtains is through direct means, such as visitor/patient/healthcare worker contact, they can also become contaminated via indirect contact (contaminated surfaces/equipment) and pick up airborne pathogens while they are being moved.

HCAIs Cost the NHS £1 Billion a Year

Around one in 10 patients pick up a healthcare-acquired infection, also known as a nosocomial infection, during a hospital stay. These HCAIs are estimated to cost the NHS a staggering £1 billion a year, with infected patients costing up to three times more to treat than uninfected patients.

In Europe alone, HCAIs are thought to account for 37,000 deaths each year, while around 5,000 patients in England die annually as a direct result of a HCAI. In addition, HCAIs contribute to a further 15,000 deaths in the UK every year.

Further Issues

As well as the potential infection risks posed, traditional privacy curtains are also associated with a number of other problems.

First of all, the nature of traditional privacy curtains means that they can only be used in confined spaces and where their hanging rails are installed. This makes them less versatile than some other alternatives available in the market today.

Traditional privacy curtains are also not soundproof, so it can be difficult for healthcare professionals and patients to have private conversations behind them. The fact they can be easily and quickly opened also poses a problem when patients need to undergo more private examinations.

Then there is the time and money associated with removing privacy curtains when they need to be cleaned, and replacing them with new ones when they are worn out. These costs directly contribute to the healthcare facility’s overheads.

Finally, traditional privacy curtains often clash with other pieces of hospital equipment in that they either impede the operation of other apparatus or their own operation becomes hindered.


About Silentia:

  • 20 years experience supplying privacy screens
  • End-to-end services from design to delivery
  • Screens used across healthcare facilities
  • Flexible market uses



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