Hospitals in England have been told that they should not be discouraging the use of mobile phones in their premises.

Guidance from the Department of Health has finally acted on the news that mobiles would not pose a problem should they be used in hospitals, as long as it is away from machinery that could be affected by electromagnetic waves.

Encourage sensible use

The NHS should give patients the 'widest possible use' of mobile phones said the advice, clearly indicating areas where usage is not allowed.

"Mobile phones are commonplace in everyday life these days and people have told us that they'd like to be able to use their phones more in hospital to keep in touch," said Health Minster Ben Bradshaw.

"That's why we're keen to encourage sensible use in NHS hospitals where it is safe to do so, in addition to other services offered in hospitals such as bedside payphones, TV and internet access."

Note of caution

However, Nigel Edwards – the policy director at the NHS Confederation urged caution, telling the Guardian: "Any change to current policy on mobile phone use should take account of patients need for privacy as well as the fact that contact with relatives and friends can in many cases make a stay in hospitals less stressful and worrying.

"However the last thing we want to do is to make hospitals more stressful than they need to be because of the noise of annoying ringtones or the kind of loud phone conversations that already plague much of everyday life. 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.

"We need to ensure there is no free-for-all and that policies supported by patients and staff are put in place such as quiet rooms and no mobile zones. There needs to be clarity on when mobile phones can be used and what visitors can do."