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Hospitals: Mobile Phones

Volume 461: debated on Wednesday 20 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what research has been carried out to quantify the effect of mobile telephone usage in different areas of the hospital environment; (143079)

(2) what assessment she has made of the areas of a hospital environment in which mobile telephone usage places patient safety at risk.

The Medical Devices Agency (now part of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)) conducted an extensive study into the effects of a wide range of mobile communication equipment on 178 different models of medical device in 1997. The results indicated that only 4 per cent. of the medical devices tested suffered interference from mobile phones at a distance of one metre, with less than 0.1 per cent. showing serious effects.

The results of this study were published in the Device Bulletin DB 9702 ‘Electromagnetic Compatibility of Medical Devices with Mobile Communications’. This advice has been reviewed on a regular basis by the MHRA since 1997.

An update document, SN 2001(06) was published in March 2001, which covered the potential interference with medical devices by TETRA radio systems employed by the emergency services and media broadcasts from hospital premises.

Most recently, the MHRA published guidance on its website in July 2004. This guidance advised that healthcare providers should actively manage the use of radio frequency spectrum on their own sites, and consider the potential effects of communication equipment on all medical devices.

The Department issued guidance on mobile phone usage in May 2007, available on the Department's website, which contains suggestions on where mobile phones should and should not be used.

Although each national health service trust must ultimately decide where mobile phones are and are not allowed the Department suggests that their usage, for safety, privacy and dignity and annoyance reasons, are not used in the following areas: on wards; intensive therapy units; operating theatres; maternity wards; special care baby units; children’s wards/areas.

Subject to carrying out a risk assessment trusts may wish to consider allowing the use of mobile phones in the following areas: hospital reception and entrance areas; non-clinical communal areas which may including day rooms and cafe areas; specially designated rooms/areas; public corridors.