Friday, January 09, 2009

Mobile phones are finally passed fit for use in British hospitals

As one of the golden rules of hospital visits, the mobile phone ban was the most likely to be obeyed: do it, or risk unsettling a pacemaker or shutting down a high-dependency unit. But after years of dogged compliance by patients and visitors, the Government has admitted finally that the ban is based on mythical safety concerns and should be relaxed. Ministers are advising health trusts to let people use mobile phones freely in hospital - as long as they do not carry any specific risk to equipment, compromise privacy or cause a nuisance. The updated Department of Health guidance comes three years after studies found that hospital-wide bans on mobile phones were not justified, as the risk of a signal interfering with medical equipment was low.

Many hospitals have continued to stipulate that mobile phones should not be switched on or used in clinical areas, including in-patient wards, unless there are good reasons to do so. Some argue that patient privacy could be breached by people taking "inappropriate" photos and videos using the latest camera phones. Yesterday NHS managers said that patients' rights to peace and quiet should not be violated by the disturbance of constant ringtones and text alerts.

Ben Bradshaw, the Health Minister, said that trusts should produce a clear written policy on the use of mobile phones, recognising that they are commonplace and can provide comfort to patients and relatives. Areas where phones should not be used should be clearly identified, the guidance says. It highlights specific risks from the use of camera phones - in particular that they may be used to take inappropriate pictures of children, of patients in private places such as bathrooms or to record confidential or sensitive information about them. It also tells trusts to beware that "an essential medical device may be inadvertently unplugged in order to charge a mobile device".

The British Medical Association said that there were also strong arguments for doctors to have mobile phones, to improve communication and care.

Mobile phones were first banned in hospitals in the early 1990s because of fears that they would interfere with medical equipment, and restrictions are still widespread. But a study by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in 2006 found that they were no more of a threat than televisions, radios and other electronic devices, and interfered with only 4 per cent of medical devices, such as specialist equipment typically used away from general wards. The agency suggested continued restrictions in areas such as intensive care, chemotherapy treatment wards or special care baby units.

Continuing restrictions on mobile phone use were also criticised in light of the high cost of making and receiving calls using bedside pay phones.

Yesterday's guidelines for hospitals in England follows similar advice to hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

Nigel Edwards, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, which represents health managers, said: "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."

Mr Bradshaw said: "Close support and comfort from loved ones when you are poorly in hospital is essential. 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."


Children under two 'should live TV free'

That it does no harm is not enough, apparently. That it is of "little benefit" (as judged by this "expert") is enough to ban it. The guy just oozes Fascist arrogance

A visiting international childhood expert says children should watch no television in the first two years of their lives. The director of the Centre on Media and Child Health at the Harvard Medical School, Dr Michael Rich, says there is little benefit in putting a child under the age of two in front of a TV screen. "There is no scientific evidence that children under the age of about 30 months, two-and-a-half years, can learn much of anything other than fairly rote imitation or mimicry from an electronic screen," he told ABC radio's The World Today program.

"What we know is that at least for national data from the United States that children under the age of two on average use electronic games for about an hour, a little over an hour a day," he said. "[We know] that 26 per cent of them have a television in their bedrooms and that it is very much integrated into their daily lives, largely in the format of parents using the television as an electronic babysitter."

Dr Rich says TV screens do not provide the kind of stimuli most optimal for brain development. "The best things are interaction with other human beings face to face, manipulating the physical environment, stacking up blocks, trying to get a raisin in your mouth and open-ended creative problem-solving sort of play," he said. "So a blank piece of paper and a crayon or a piece of clay to play with." [Has this guy ever had kids??]

Dr Rich says television and other media consumption should be restricted to about two hours a day for teenagers. "It is really the school age years where kids start watching television on their own and actually teenagers, the data shows, use television less than school age kids," he said. "They start using more music and online media rather than television. "But frankly there is no reason why young people, who have otherwise rich lives and homework to do and sleep to get, need to get more than an hour or two at most of media time each day."


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