Mobile phones could be allowed in some parts of hospitals

February 27, 2003

The use of mobile phones in hospitals is not as hazardous as believed and they could be allowed in selected areas, say doctors at the John Radcliffe Hospital in this week's BMJ.

Anecdotal reports exist of interference with medical electrical equipment, but the evidence for serious harm is flimsy. A study by the UK Medical Devices Agency found some interference from monitors and pacemakers. However, the effects are temporary and very localised and do not seem to justify the outright ban on mobile phones and hostility towards users, say the authors. Furthermore, the provision of phones for patients and relatives on wards is often inadequate and goes only some way towards addressing the needs of patients, they add.

It is time we took a more sensible and considered approach to the use of mobile phones in hospitals, say the authors. It seems sensible to restrict their use in clinical areas and on wards, but they should be allowed in all non-clinical areas (such as corridors, offices, entrance halls, and cafeterias) and outpatient waiting areas.

The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London already has such an enlightened approach to mobile phone use and relatives say that they find being able to use their mobile phones in selected areas invaluable.

"We hope that hospital managers and clinical directors will consider the points raised here and adopt a more sensible and flexible policy towards mobile phones. A practical balance can be achieved, and it is hoped that this would remove the aggressive overreaction of some staff and members of the public to their use in hospitals," they conclude.


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