Thursday, May 17

Patientline - Mobile usage in Hospitals

Peter Troy's recent letter published in the Evening Gazette - Middlesbrough - was printed on the letters page as a distinctive disc. So guess where the Editor stuck it ?
When blog editor Peter Troy was doing his bit with Patientline he was told (as were all the other Patientline staff at James Cook University Hospital) frequently by the local management that any patients seen using their mobile phones should be noted and that the matter would be taken up with the hospital management. Without doubt Patientline's management were keen that the sick and ailing used the company's bedside units at the the higher (and now much higher) charge rate rather than personal mobile 'phones on increasingly reducing tariffs.

Now that the media spotlight has fallen on Patienline's charges they will doubtless be keen to deny that they were asking their staff to sneek on patients - but the fact is they did.

There have been frequent calls made for the use of mobile phone in hosptitals.
As recently as 14 March this year Quin Parker of the Guardian published the following article on the subject:

Patients should be allowed to use mobile phones in hospitals, the Department of Health has recommended.

The DH is to update its guidance on mobile phone usage to hospitals, saying there is no reason why patients cannot use them in communal areas, although they may still be banned in some areas for medical or privacy reasons.

A DH spokesperson said the guidance is being updated following the recommendations of a review by an independent group looking into high phone charges experienced by patients using bedside facilities.

The guidance, which will be issued before the summer, will take into account mobile technology such as built-in cameras and the implications for privacy.

Andy Burnham, the health minister, said: "As technology has moved on it is right that we update our guidance on mobile phones to reflect that. We recognise that patients and staff should be able to use mobile phones where it is appropriate to do so, and subject to medical and privacy considerations.

"I see no reason for trusts to have an outright ban on mobile phones - especially in communal areas - and our updated guidance will make that clear."

Mr Burnham said bedside entertainment systems, which include phones, offer patients "additional services", and surveys suggested they brought benefits to patients.

Patientline, which installs and maintains bedside systems in NHS hospitals, came under intense scrutiny in parliament and by the telephone regulator Ofcom last year for charging consumers up to 49p per minute to make calls to patients.

Nobody from Patientline was available to comment on today's announcement.

Hospitals are responsible for their own policies on mobile phone use. Last year, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA), the branch of the DH responsible for drug and equipment safety, issued guidance advising against a blanket ban on phone usage.

The MHRA confirmed that their guidance into mobile phone use in hospitals published last year had not been changed.

According to the agency's guidance, mobile communication equipment can be "essential in hospitals for good patient management", and a total ban on mobile phones is not required and cannot be enforced effectively.

However, mobiles create electromagnetic interference and should be switched off in sensitive areas, such as intensive care units.

The guidance states hospitals should also make sure their policies consider cameraphones potentially invading patient privacy, and the risk of ringtones being confused with alarms on medical equipment.

1 comment:

Sarah Hopperty said...

When a close relative of mine was recently in hospital for three weeks my normaly very low phone bill was over £200 pounds more. I complained but no one was interested - so well done Peter (late of Patientline) for making a fuss about this matter. Paying 49 p a min to make a call is far too much and charging sick people pay 26p a min to call from their hospital bed is not fair. Patientline should be told by that prudent Mr Gorden Brown to stop stressing out patients and their loved ones, it would be as simple as 123 to lower the charges. Patientline may then find that they stop getting such a lot of bad press if they lower their phone charges to affordable rates.