Background and Goal of Study: Mobile phones and wireless technology have become a major part of modern life. It is estimated that 85% of UK households own a mobile phone1. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) produced new recommendations about mobile communication systems in August 20042. Many UK hospitals ban all use of mobile phones within hospital buildings. Despite this, many people in hospitals continue to use mobile phones, yet the authors could find no data supporting this observation. This study assesses the current level of mobile phone usage within two city teaching hospitals.
Materials and Methods: A simple, anonymous, ‘yes/no’ questionnaire was used. 444 questionnaires were distributed to and completed by staff in two city teaching hospitals over a 48 hour period. Completed forms were divided into three staff categories: group 1 = nursing, group 2 = medical, group 3 = others - cardiology technicians, domestic staff, medical physicists, pharmacists, etc.
Results and Discussions: 60% of questionnaires were completed by nursing staff, 18% by medical staff and 22% by others. 94% (n = 417) owned a mobile phone, of which 90% (n = 376) regularly brought their mobile phone to work. Of those who brought their mobile phone to work, 46% (n = 174) admitted to having their mobile phone switched on in a clinical area. This equates to 39% of all staff having a mobile phone switched on in a clinical area. Whilst there is undoubtedly a degree of bias in this data, there appears to be a significant proportion of staff ignoring hospital policy. The authors suggest that these results represent an under-reporting of mobile phone usage within clinical areas.
Conclusion(s): Despite current hospital policy prohibiting use of mobile phones, this data suggests that more than a third of all hospital staff disregard this policy. These results support the MHRA statement that it is impossible to enforce a mobile phone ban effectively, and endorse the MHRA recommendation that healthcare providers should actively manage wireless technology2.
1 Consumers' use of fixed and mobile telephony, Q13 May 2003. Oftel. Jul 2003.
2 Mobile Communication Systems. MHRA, Department of Health, UK. Aug 2004.