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Mobiles in hospitals now safe: official

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Using mobile phones in hospitals is safe after all, according to new official guidance. Until now, the use of mobile phones in hospitals was prohibited because of fears that they could interfere with medical equipment.

Today, though, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued new advice that a total ban on mobile phones in hospitals "is not necessary". Instead, it recommends that hospitals should "balance the risks of mobile phones interfering with critical devices and the desire for better communication in hospitals".

Said Prof Kent Woods, chief exec of the MHRA: "Mobile communication technology is particularly fast moving, resulting in a wider range of communication equipment becoming available. We have recognised that hospitals need to be updated and advised as to what action to take in light of these advances.

"Some mobile devices can cause interference with critical medical equipment and it is important these are turned off where a risk exists. However, there is no reason why mobile technology can't be used in designated areas of hospitals where there is little or no risk of interference with critical medical equipment."

Earlier this month a row broke out between doctors and the Department of Health over the use of mobile phones in hospitals. At the British Medical Association's (BMA) annual conference, Dr Simon Calvert, a specialist registrar at King's College Hospital in London, told the assembled physicians that there was no justification for banning mobile phones.

He argued that emergency services radios have a much greater risk of interfering with essential equipment, yet are allowed into resuscitation units and intensive care rooms. He cited a 1997 study, which found mobiles only affected four per cent of devices, and only 0.1 per cent were seriously affected.

"We haven't moved on in 30 years. Mobile phones seem to be the pariah of the wards, with threats of disciplinary action on any staff using them," he said. ®

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