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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Patients and visitors should be allowed to use mobile phones in hospitals except near certain sensitive equipment, the British government said on Tuesday.
Many hospitals still ban mobiles throughout their premises despite recent advice from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which said they are safe to use in most areas.
In new guidance for hospitals in England, the government said medical authorities should take a more liberal approach.
"The working presumption should be that patients will be allowed the widest possible use of mobile phones in hospitals, including on wards," the Department of Health said.
The only restrictions should be where the phones might interfere with sensitive equipment in critical care areas such as baby and renal units.
Consideration should also be given to ensuring that phone use does not contravene rules on privacy and dignity, particularly in the case of mobiles capable of taking photos or video.
"Mobiles 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 Minister Ben Bradshaw.
"That's why we're keen to encourage sensible use in NHS hospitals where it is safe to do so."
The NHS Confederation, which represents most organizations within the National Health Service, called for hospitals to establish quiet rooms and "no mobile" zones.
"The last thing we want to do is to make hospitals more stressful than they need to be because of the noise of annoying ring tones or the kind of loud phone conversations that already plague much of everyday life," said NHS Confederation Policy Director Nigel Edwards.
"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."
Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato