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Welsh hospitals to allow mobile use

A mere 20 months after the English

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The Welsh Health Minister has said that Welsh hospitals should permit mobile phone use, which makes sense as England has allowed them since January 2009.

That was when the Department of Health recommended that mobile phones be permitted in English hospitals, but Wales has spent an additional 20 months coming to the same conclusion and now recommends that mobile phones be permitted in Welsh hospitals, within areas to be defined by the hospitals themselves.

We asked the Welsh Assembly why it had needed the additional time, but the representative claimed to be unaware of the English decision and pointed out that Health was devolved so an English recommendation would have no bearing on Welsh hospitals.

Mobiles were banned in hospitals for fear they would interfere with medical equipment, a fear which has only been proven in the most extreme of situations - interference has been experimentally demonstrated, but the risk is small. These days most hospitals forbid mobiles in intensive-care wards, though that's largely because ring tones sound too similar to the emergency alarms, interference of a different sort.

But the ban on mobiles turned into a nice little earner for PatientLine, who snagged a monopoly on telecommunications and TV in many hospitals. PatientLine put in expensive bedside terminals, and charged commensurate fees for using them, to the disgust of patients and politicians.

So Edwina Hart, Health Minister for the Welsh Assembly, has now issued guidelines saying that mobile phones should be allowed and that rates for calling and TV use should be more prominently advertised. Which is good news even if it's taken almost two years to spread across the border. ®

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