Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Use of mobile phones in hospitals

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 12 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:767

Rapid Response:

Sensible mobile phone policies

Derbyshire and Burgess are correct in highlighting the case for
relaxation of the almost universal ban on mobile phones in hospitals, but
their historical perspective shows a lack of understanding. They quote the
Medical Devices Agency (MDA) document DB 9702, but this never advocated a
universal ban. In their recommendations the MDA suggested phones should be
switched off in areas where sensitive equipment may be used. In fact their
recommendations for security radio sets (porters radios) suggests the use
of cellphones (mobile phones) in preference to the normal radios. The MDA
gave guidance for formulating policy which stated 'Hospitals will need to
formulate local policies, based on the medical devices in use, the
communications equipment and the local environment'. There is no universal
ban in that statement.

We reviewed the available advice at the Royal United Hospital in Bath
during 2004 and undertook many measurements to identify whether there
could be a level of interference which might compromise patient care. We
found none with the equipment that we use, apart from external temporary
cardiac pacemakers. As a result we have lifted the blanket ban and allowed
ward and department managers discretion to restrict use on sociological or
patient care grounds. We have maintained the ban in cardiac areas.

We have introduced a 3 metre exclusion zone around medical equipment
for the use of porters and emergency services radios and require 1 metre
clearance with mobile phones.

This has resulted in a flexibility which allows patients who are
anxious to still be in communication with their families and healthcare
professionals the use of a vital tool which increases the quality of
patient care.

Modern medical equipment has to meet stringent standards of immunity
to electromagnetic interference which is embodied in international
standard BS EN 60601-1-2. Simple measurements of the output of mobile
phones can be undertaken by many Medical Physics or Clinical Engineering
departments. These show that most mobile phones do not emit signals at
these levels at distances greater than a few tens of centimetres from the
phone. So the observations recorded in this journal and the scientific
measurements all point to the same thing: sensible use of mobile phones
enhances patient safety and experience rather than diminishing it.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

13 October 2006
Lindsay J Grant
Consultant Clinical Scientist
Andrew Phillips
Dept of Medical Physics & Bioengineering, Royal United Hospital, Combe Park, Bath BA1 3NG