Intended for healthcare professionals


Use of mobile phones in hospitals

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 12 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:767
  1. Stuart W G Derbyshire (, senior lecturer in psychology,
  2. Adam Burgess, senior lecturer in sociology
  1. University of Birmingham, School of Psychology, Birmingham BI5 2TT
  2. University of Kent, School of Social Policy, Sociology, and Social Research, Canterbury CT2 7NF

    New guidelines are less restrictive but still overcautious

    Mobile phones are widely used, but their use is still restricted in certain places including petrol stations, some areas in hospitals, and aircraft. Restrictions have been justified on the grounds of public safety, but the reasons behind these restrictions are often unclear. In hospitals, patients, visitors, and staff routinely breeze through wards with their mobile phones switched on. As yet we have no evidence that this behaviour has serious consequences for patients. The lack of such evidence has encouraged the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to advise more selective restrictions on the use of mobile phones in hospitals (box).1 While welcoming this relaxation, we wonder why it has taken so long to happen and why it has the feeling of extracting a generous concession. The liberalisation sits alongside proposed new restrictions, such as a ban on the use of camera phones in patient areas. The regulations also fail to criticise the previous ones, which were overcautionary. Paradoxically, the new rules may be even more restrictive than the old ones.

    Mobile phones arrived …

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