back to article Mobiles finally admitted to English hospitals

England is catching up with Scotland and Wales in liberalising mobile phone use in hospitals, a mere five years after it was established that such use didn't present a significant risk to medical equipment. The guidance comes from the Department of Health and states that outside intensive care, and specialist baby units, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old News?

    A few weeks ago, I spent a night on a surgical ward. Mobiles were not banned then. So what's the news?

    They even had signs saying "If you bring a mobile phone onto the ward, please make sure it is left on silent. Chargers are not allowed, so please send your phone home to be charged"

  2. Eddie Cooper

    Ward phone revenues

    Why would any trust allow the use of mobiles by patients when it would severely dent the revenues gained by the hideously charged phone-card/TV systems that are in many hospitals?

  3. Chris Priest
    Thumb Up


    at least it'll do away with those rip off bedside phones they have!

  4. Ralph B

    Unfortunately Name Change

    I note that "Patientline" are now calling themselves "Hospedia". However, I don't believe you have to be either a ho or a pedo to use their services.

    <= Picking your pocket while you're ill in bed.

  5. Nic Brough
    Thumb Down

    A title is required.

    On the technical side - is there any peer-reviewed evidence that mobiles ever interfered with hospital equipment? I couldn't find any. IMHO, the real reason they're banned is for yet another private company to bludgeon cash out of people by providing a vastly over priced "service" <insert rant about trains, buses, parliament, Brussels as appropriate>

    On the human side, FFS, ban the damn things, the doctors don't want them, the nurses don't want them, and the patients don't need them.

    The best thing hospitals can do is retain the ban, ideally enforcing it even more strongly than now, and leave patients in peace - hospitals are supposed to help you recover, and being annoyed by someone blathering away on a mobile is never going to help that.

    It's bad enough on the train. If our government wanted us to be healthy, they could reduce stress and heart disease overnight by painting public transport with conductive paint.

    Yeah, I know, hospital is where most people go to die, and are excellent places to catch a dose of C-Diff, Ebola, or MRSA, but at least give us a bit of peace while we're there! First thing I'll be asking for if I wake up in A&E will be a jammer...

  6. Delboy
    Thumb Down

    Now I'm even more restricted

    As I regard the mobile phone as the most anti-social invention in history, I have deliberately banned myself from any place where its use is allowed. This restricted me to my home, my car and hospital. Now it appears that, if I become seriously ill, I will just have to stay home and die.

    Hospital is already a stressful experience and this will make it ten times worse. People will go in with something like a broken leg and come out with serious mental issues.

  7. Stuart Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Quiet Please!

    Simple: Require all mobiles be put into silent/vibrate mode. Otherwise require it to be treated as a suppository ... require all patients/visitors not suffering from a hearing deficit to not interfere by also not talking loudly and all on ward TVs to have only earphones.

    Cameraphones? I've never seen a notice forbidding cameras not matter what the focal length. Good manners would be nice. It starts by treating patients as people and not as revenue earning victim for a wobbly private telephone parasite.

  8. Richard Howell

    There's a time and a place

    Last weekend Scotland on Sunday carried a report claiming that medical researchers in Edinburgh had found that mobile phones could pose a significant health risk in hospitals ( Even if that is not the case you wouldn't really want to be in the next bed to somebody who insisted on telling the world and its brother that he or she was in hospital. It would be worse than travelling on a train!

  9. Jay Jaffa

    There's an opportunity here for Pico or Femtocells

    Given the limited connectivity in most hospitals I've visited (not many tbh) I'd suggest that the hospitals could increase their revenues by doing a deal with one of the larger wireless telcos and offering open access Femtocells which your handset would automatically "camp" on whilst visiting.

    another nail in the heart for the PBX ...

  10. Alex Walsh

    Its needed

    My wife was admitted to hospital before christmas with suspected pneumonia. She was 8 months pregnant. They kept her in two nights and I had to ring through to the ward on one occasion as they hadn't answered her "emergency" alarm for almost an hour and a half. If she hadn't have had her mobile with her and rung me in tears, she may still be waiting to this day.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Loud ringtones, noisy conversations? More like loss of income...

    What troubles hospital managers isn't loud ringtones, conversations, etc... all of these already exist in any hospital where patientline is installed.

    Instead what troubles some hospital managers is the loss of income from their patientline installations if all patients, and more to the point, their relatives, start ringing mobiles instead of the extortionately charged patientline phones. This may make it difficult for certain hospitals to keep up the contractual costs of such installations (the main reason why the charges are so high as it Patientline have to recoup the installation and capital costs somehow!).

    Patients can already chat away on their phones throughout their consultations with the medics and in doing so will be just like the Consultant on the round who chats away on his whiolst his juniors undertake the work.

  12. Ian Chard

    Already in Scotland?

    Not in Monklands, where mobiles are still prohibited everywhere (officially at least).

  13. Steven Raith
    Thumb Down

    "HELLO? WHAT?"


    *sounds of a scuffle*

    *Several thwacks*

    *strange sink-plunging noise*

    *blissful silence*

    *alarm cord rings to remove mobile from somewhere it was never designed to be stored and to bring round an unconcious patient*

    Steven R

  14. Andy Barber
    Dead Vulture

    Middlesex Hospital UCL

    My son had to go to the Middlesex Hospital TCTU when the report first came out. I got a call on my phone while I was in their, so answered it. A nurse came to me & told me mobiles were not allowed in the hospital. I whipped out that days copy of the Guardian & showed her the article saying that mobiles were safe. I also pointed out the the research was done by that very hospital. She said, "OK then but don't let me see you on your phone though!"

    Oh, my son died of his cancer: please donate some money (in the credit crunch) to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

  15. Will

    Don't present a *significant* risk. Won't interfere with the vast *majority* of medical equipment!

    Does anyone else not think that statements like "Don't present a *significant* risk." and "Won't interfere with the vast *majority* of medical equipment". Imply that since a hospital is about making people better, rather than checking your voicemail, this is a little concerning.

    I'd much prefer it if they would allow their use when they could confirm there was NO risk, and their lack of interference with ALL equipment.

  16. Stevie


    Squelch the signal in the wards, lest there be a virulent outbreak of push-to-talk idiots with their stupid, annoying roger-bleeps, shouty voices and phones turned up so loud the speaker shreds itself.

    It's already impossible to ride a train or bus, eat a meal at a restaurant or even work at my desk because of this boil on the backside of communications technology. For Azathoth's sake let me recuperate from my phone-noise induced heart attack in peace and quiet!

    Cell phone use in hospitals is the thin end of the badger, mark my words.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Nic Brough/Delboy

    Obviously you're not suffering from any illness that requires frequent hospitalisations miles away from home.

    I can't afford to use Patientline, but I have a great sim-only mobile contract. I was recently taken to a hospital 50 miles from my home, couldn't have visitors and was in a room on my own. I didn't know how long I was going to be there, Patientline was £4 a day+phone charges, which I couldn't afford. Having my mobile and being allowed to use it made the stay almost bearable. It is horrible being cut off from everyone you know and love when you're seriously ill and desperately lonely. It meant I could stay in touch with my wife, text family and friends to let them know I was ok, and keep my mind off the horrible things going on.

  18. Anonymous Coward


    I work at a hospital and have the mobile with me while i'm out and about, for work purposes of course, and, i don't know about other places but, good luck getting a signal in there, especially on the wards.

    I now have the biggest pager known to mankind to be contacted on - woopee

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    speaking as a former emergency patient...

    ...I think it is great news. I was in a hospital in Scotland, and the phones were tolerated. It was a great way to deal with the boredom and so to speak to concerned relatives and friends.

    And the phones were no where near as upsetting as the very real possibility of people being told they had terminal cancer within earshot.

    For people who really think they will be driven to rage by nearby conversations, perhaps they should get some headsets and block out the world. It might work.

  20. fords

    Old news for some of us

    I spend a lot of time in hospital (I volunteer for hospital radio in Scotland and despise Patientline) and to be honest with you patients are generally quite considerate with their mobile phone use. In the hospital I visit patients are even allowed to charge their phones. We also take advantage of mobiles being allowed by letting people text in their competition answers so everyone wins!

    I once had a good chat with a nurse one night who informed me that mobiles are now allowed in all high dependency units because the risk of interference with equipment is minimal, and only then it's only if the equipment is really old as new equipment isn't affected in the slightest. So there ya go - straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak ;-)

  21. DJ
    Gates Horns

    Mobiles are dangerous in hospitals.

    anyone making a phone call near me while I'm having my last words with a dying relative gets a punch in the face.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    grumpy old men

    Comedy commenting as always. Killing us all with MRSA, fine, but allowing mobile phones???!! Over my dead body!


  23. adnim


    Mobile phone use should comply with the rules/laws established for smokers. Use them outside and in your own home. Their use should be banned from public buildings and public transport. Those found using them whilst driving should face a 12 month driving ban. In hospitals, patients should be allowed to use them with ringers on silent, if only to deprive patientline/hospedia of the ability to fleece their captive consumer base.

    Why do people shout into these things?

  24. Hedley Phillips


    One Nine for a copy

  25. Michael

    Ah well

    Its the end of patientline and the 50p or so a minute to call in to your relatives! £3.50 per night for a TV 'service' and only 5 channels if your lucky! Even Pr0n is cheaper on a nightly basis!!

    Mines the lab coat with the unlimited talk/text tariff, ipod and mini TV in the pocket.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well that's a blow to the phone scam. Now we need to do much the same to the TV scam, and the parking scam.

  27. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Dead Vulture

    I think what we have here is a lack of communication...

    "Doctors and nurses doing their rounds should not have to constantly wait for patients to finish phone calls and night-times on wards should not be disturbed by the chirruping of text messages."

    Um.. who pays their wages? I can see that everyone's fed up with doctors thinking that they're any better than glorified mechanics. The state pays them to repair us - they seem to have forgotten who is doing the paying. The sooner the Conservatives bring a bit of the private sector service ethos to the NHS the better I'll be pleased, though I doubt that I'll use it even then...

    (Tombstone for the typical result of not having private health insurance and being treated by an NHS hospital)

  28. Garry Mills

    Doctors and consultants

    Are constantly walking up and down the wards in my hospital using their mobile, even whilst talking to patients!

    Rule for one?

  29. Pete Silver badge

    @Delboy @adnim

    it sounds like you've never had any experience of hospitals - either as a customer or a relative to someone "inside".

    The biggest boost to a patient is when someone comes to visit. The next best thing is when they call, or when the patient is able to call - and hear a friendly, concerned voice, talking to them about day to day stuff. It relieves the crushing boredom of being stuck in a ward 24*7, surrounded by sick people and gives them a link back to reality.

    If you don't like them, do yourselves a favour and don't get ill. As it is, if you do find yourself in hospital, pretty much everyone around you will have their mobile on, and you won't be in a position to do anything about it - despite your huffing and puffing, so you'd better get used to the idea.

  30. This post has been deleted by its author

  31. Nebulo
    Paris Hilton

    Sod mobile phones

    I'll take WiFi access and an Eee, thanks. Send its friend along and she'll speed my recovery considerably.

    Paris. She would, too.

  32. Aaron Giuntini

    about time!

    i cannot believe all this self obsessive "i am the most important person in the world so all of you spin round me" SHITE!

    letting people have their mobiles phones in hospital is VERY VERY safe!

    i know from where i speak as a licensed radio amateur. there is NO equipment in hospitals these days that i know of that is not properly insulated against any interference that a phone *might* cause.

    As discussed previously the cost of patientline is DISGUSTING and the tenders given out for EVERYTHING from cleaning to these phone systems is part of the problem brought about by PPP/PFI methods brought in by new labour.

    Pepople feel BETTER when they can speak to people that maybe can't physically come to visit them such as elderly or infirm people or maybe it's just plain old distance.

    adnim you and your self centered ilk should LEARN to think about how some things actually are a BENEFIT to others and help them along in some way in their daily life rather than piss and moan about how cruel and unfair the world is and, as i said how it should revolve round all your selfish arses!

    no icon as they didn't have a "FUCK YOU YOU SELFISH TWAT" one!

  33. Adrian Midgley

    @Dodgy Geezer OK as long as you were already seen...

    I think you might think that unless you were the first patient on the round it would be nice, and considerate, of those ahead of you did not delay the progress of the team toward you, or reduce the amount of time available for thinking about all of you.

    It is a thing called society. Feel free to join. It involves more effort than paying a fee.

  34. adnim


    It is exactly because I have experience of hospitals, in one of which my mother died recently that I have my stated opinion. Please read my comment again, and note this sentence "In hospitals, patients should be allowed to use them with ringers on silent".

    You are right about the crushing boredom. I signed myself out the last and only time I was admitted to hospital with a serious problem. I would have rather died than spend another minute as a patient on a hospital ward. Fortunately or unfortunately I got better without the ministrations of a doctor or prescribed drugs. I can be a stubborn bastard.

  35. adnim

    @Aaron Giuntini

    You appear to be another asshole that does not read comments properly, please read my comment again.

    I will refrain from insulting you as I don't have to.

    And btw, I AM the most important person in the world, you just haven't realised it yet ;-)

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    my experience

    When I was in the Public Relations department of a large public hospital, my boss enacted a ban on mobiles because everyone was afraid of the cameras in them. Anything else given as a reason is a diversion. I do recall, however, a nurse getting off a charge (negligence, IIRC) at a nearby private hospital after a patient died of a potassium overdose (once again, IIRC) by blaming "teh ebil mobile phones" in use at the time for resetting the patient's IV drip system. Randomly. Unrepeatably... This was clearly BS designed to cover up her mistake, but it had the result of getting phones banned there too.

  37. John White

    @Dodgy Geezer - try working in a hospital!

    As someone who works in a hospital - please note that I ALSO PAY TAXES SO PAY FOR NHS STAFF SERVICES - OK I do take out net to the NHS but the point is "who do they think pay the wages " includes NHS staff themselves.

    Just as important - I AM NOT A DOCTOR OR A NURSE - many others professions work in hospitals and yes, I do have to wait for patients to finish mobile conversations; stop emailing on the internet via phone and reading/sending texts. This slows my work down. How happy would you be if I said "sorry your discharge/consultation has been delayed by 2 hrs because I had to wait for x patients to finish their phone conversations/texts"?

    Those patients using mobiles/PDAs/laptops have a duty to be considerate/courteous/respect privacy when and where they use them. This, of course, applies just as much outside hospitals

    BTW; Thise with camera-phones should be think hard about bringing them into hospital due to the high risk of infringing the privacy/dignity of others.

    End of soap-box rant

    (after all they rightly expect hospital staff to be the same to them)

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Extend the ban

    Rather than allow them in hospitals, ban them in every public space. They are bloody irritating disruptions to our lives and we have all become so sad that we have to be in constant touch. I dropped and broke my mobile last week and haven't bothered replacing it. Now, people have to phone my landline and leave a message if I am not there. PEACE and TRANQUILITY...

    Get your lives back. Throw away your phone.

  39. Zorric

    @Will - Significant?

    If there is no significant risk, that means that there is no risk that is significant, i.e, in effect, no risk.

    If the risk was significant, it would be a different matter.

  40. Justabloke
    Thumb Up


    A couple of years ago, I had a mild heart attack and was rushed to hospital "blues and twos stylee"... I had one thing in my pocket that without I'd have been screwed...

    My mobile.

    No wallet... no cash money... no means to access cash money because I had no cards.

    I live alone and had no plans to see anyone for a few days.

    without my mobile no one would have known where I was... without my mobile my cats would have starved...

    I switched my mobile to silent and sent a couple of text messages. sorted.

    don't really see how this could be a problem for any of the other patients in my wards.... most of whom were shouting over the noise of a TV.

  41. Simon B
    Black Helicopters

    A title is required.

    We wouldn't NEED to use mobiles in hospital IF the pay phones from Patientline / Hospedia weren't so RIP OFF EXPENSIVE. They want the same from a landline as I payed from my mobile phone about 14 years ago!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phones in hospitals

    My mother has been in hospital for most of the last year and without her mobile things would be much more difficult than they already are.

    I visit when I can, but I live over 2 hours drive away (on a good day) so I can't just pop in on my way home from work. She is not completely immobile but not far off (especially if she has been to theatre recently) and anyway, she is not allowed off hospital grounds so cannot shop for herself or do her own washing.

    So if she needs something she can just phone me and I can do it, otherwise she may have to wait weeks, which may not be acceptable. The patientline phones are not installed at every bed in her hospital and about 10% of them seem to be faulty at any time so even if she wanted to pay the 20p/min to phone me, and even if I wanted to pay the 48p/min (with 2 minutes of welcome to X hospital, you have phoned number Y, which is patient Z. Please hold if that is correct bullshit) to phone her often this is not possible.

    I am sure loud mobile ringing is irritating, so make patients turn them down, and I am sure some people insist on finishing their call / text / email before speaking to a doctor, but that is not inherently a problem with mobile phones, that is inherently a problem with arseholes being arseholes.

    Hospitals should be able to take action against patients who offend others or disrupt the system in the same way they do so in the cases of abusive / violent patients and patients who refuse treatment.

    Eventually we will probably have "quiet" wards in the same way there are quiet carriages on trains. Then everyone will be happy.

  43. Paul Corbett

    Be nice ladies

    My wife was in hospital recently, i used my phone extensively, i had it on silent and vibrate and only texted (and i HATE texting), having a voice conversation in a hospital seemed WRONG to me.

    Didn't stop the lady in the next bed having a LOUD and expensive patientline conversation though !

    Set the wife up with the patientline system then discovered she had no headphones, then contacted the helpline to request headphones and they said someone would be out MONDAY, they don't work the weekends ?. Eventually stole a set of headphones from a empty bed for the night for her and brought her a new set in from home the next day.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A lot of you complainers have obviously never had to deal with a sick relative in an emergency situation, as if often the case in hospitals. I don't like cellphone rudeness, but it's a god send to have a cellphone in the hospital when you're trying to reach people and find out what's going on. What a selfish lot you've all (again) turned out to be.

    Obviously, there should be some rules in place so they aren't disruptive, but that's easy.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good news but

    You will sadly get the dickheads that insist on shouting to show they are on a mobile but most decent people will consider their surroundings and others.

    @Andy Barber Please accept my condolences

    @DJ You'd have my full backing if they did not comply with a reasonable request.

    Here's hoping patientcrime become a victim of the credit crunch

  46. martin


    this could spell disaster for the newly formed Hospedia (formerly Patientline)

    if mobiles are accepted into all hospitals (some hospitals could still ban them)

    as Hospedia makes most money out of the phone calls (they have promised to bring the charges down) and some out of the tv service. i wonder if they will go the same way as Patientline.

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