There is ‘no reason’ why NHS trusts should ban the use of mobile phones in hospitals, the government has said.
Health Minister Andy Burnham said technology had moved on and an outright ban was unnecessary.
At present, trusts decide at a local level whether to ban the use of mobiles in their hospitals, with many opting to do so.
But studies have shown that the signals do not interfere with medical equipment as much as people think.
In October, Stuart Derbyshire, a Senior Lecturer in psychology at the University of Birmingham, and Adam Burgess, Senior Lecturer in sociology at the University of Kent, wrote about the effects in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
They said a 1997 study from the UK’s Medical Devices Agency showed that phones affected just 4 per cent of medical devices at a distance of one metre.
‘In contrast, this figure was 41 per cent for emergency services’ handsets and 35 per cent for porters’ handsets,’ they said.
In general, the interference was ‘merely an irritation and ultimately harmless to the patient’, they added.
Mr Burnham said: ‘The NHS Plan set out a very clear commitment to give patients more choice and control over their environment.
‘The introduction of bedside entertainment systems has offered patients additional services, and evidence suggests these services have brought benefits to patients and surveys suggest they are valued by the people who use them.
‘However, as technology has moved on it is right that we update our guidance on mobile phones to reflect that.
‘We recognise that patients and staff should be able to use mobile phones where it is appropriate to do so and subject to medical and privacy considerations.
‘I see no reason for trusts to have an outright ban on mobile phones, especially in communal areas. Our updated guidance will make that clear, although NHS trusts are responsible for formulating their own policy on mobile phone usage.’
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