Patients, visitors and staff will be able to use their mobile phones in some parts of North Devon District Hospital from 24 August.
Similar changes are on the way at local community hospitals and at Barnstaple Health Centre, which are also run by Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust.
The move follows new guidance from the Government, which says blanket bans on mobile use are no longer necessary, and a consultation exercise run by the Trust in April and May.
The national Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has also now said there is no reason why mobile technology cannot be used in designated areas of hospitals where there is little or no risk of interference with critical medical equipment.
The new system will allow mobiles to be used in non-clinical areas – corridors, stairwells, staff rooms, offices and foyers, plus the internet café area at North Devon District Hospital.
However, phones will have to be switched off in clinical areas such as wards (including ward corridors), the Out-patient Department, and Accident and Emergency (A&E). This will safeguard sensitive equipment and prevent loud ring tones and conversations causing upset for patients – especially those trying to rest.
Signs have been put up to show areas where phones must be switched off and the Trustwide telephone policy is being amended to outline the new procedures.
The Trust will also enforce a complete ban on the use of cameras for taking pictures anywhere on the hospital sites, to protect the privacy and dignity of other people – especially patients.
The consultation in the spring asked people to choose between four options. The results showed:
- 13% in favour of Option 1 – sticking with the current blanket ban
- 36% in favour of Option 2 – usage everywhere except highly-sensitive clinical areas such as the intensive care unit
- 40% in favour of Option 3 – as Option 2 but with a ban on other clinical areas such as wards, Out-patients and A&E
- 11% in favour of Option 4 – as Option 3 but with a ban extended to other areas such as offices, tea bars and corridors
After analysing feedback from the consultation and taking national guidance into account, the Trust decided to approve Option 3.
Iain Roy, the Trust’s Director of Facilities, said: “We’re moving with the times. Mobile phones are a fact of life, and if they don’t pose a risk to sensitive equipment, then it’s a question of making sure they don’t disturb other patients and visitors rather than banning them altogether.
“I think we’ve struck a happy medium that will let people use their phones wherever possible, while safeguarding privacy and protecting hi-tech kit.
“I’d like to thank everyone to who gave us their views and helped us shape the new policy.”