Nurses should avoid the temptation to use their own mobile phones for work purposes, the Royal College of Nursing has warned.

The college said that if nurses needed to use their phones regularly for work their employers should provide them and advised nurses to be aware of the risks when using smartphone applications to make clinical decisions, or record and send patient information.

It has published new guidance (see document attached, right) in response to a growing number of members raising concerns about the use of mobile devices at this year’s RCN Congress in Harrogate.

The RCN noted that smartphones were useful tools, which allowed nurses to communicate, photograph wounds, make calculations, and access guidelines and information via the internet.

However, it highlighted the results of a 2010 survey of clinicians in which 80 per cent of nurses and midwives that carried mobile phones admitted to using their own phone for work.

The RCN said nursing staff should not “bear the brunt of costs” of work related phone usage. It called on NHS organisations to supply equipment where staff routinely needed to use mobile devices.

Guideline author Alison Wallis, an e-health advisor at the RCN, said: “We are against the regular use of mobile phones for work purposes but we accept there are times when they may have to be used in an emergency, for example.”

She said the growth in nurses having their own mobile phones had led to staff being “tempted” to use them for work.

“There is a concern that pressure would be put on nurses to use their own phone, although we aren’t saying that may be a conscious decision by employers,” she said. “If they need to regularly use their phones the employer should provide them.”

Ms Wallis also warned nurses not to record or transmit patient data with their own mobile devices due to the potential for breaching confidentiality. She added that there was also a safety issue for staff if patients got hold of their personal phone number.

The dramatic rise in mobile applications, commonly known as “apps”, was a key risk highlighted in the RCN guidance. It advised nurses to make sure they could properly evaluate an app’s usefulness before downloading it.

Ms Wallis said: “Nurses are taking the responsibility on themselves using these apps. If they are downloading them and using them, they could be basing clinical decisions on unreliable information.”

She added that she hoped the guidance could be used by nurses to discuss mobile phone usage with their managers and employers.