Doctors are unable to receive messages asking them to report to the operating theatre because O2 have failed to replace masts they removed from Sussex Royal County Hospital.

Thousands of customers have been without service in the Kemp Town area since late March, after the signal transmitters were removed to make way for the hospital helipad.

The NHS trust gave O2 18 months notice in April 2012, allowing the company to find an alternative location for the mast, but it’s something that they are still searching for.

Dr Kaul, Senior Surgical Registrar at Sussex Royal County Hospital, said doctors using the hospital’s switchboard to contact on-call doctors aren’t able to reach O2 customers, leading, in some cases, to consultants failing to report to duty.

He said: “It’s useless – it’s like working in the Third World.

“In fact, it’s worse than that – in India you can make calls, at the hospital you get nothing.

“We can’t text, we can’t get through to our consultants and O2 are just hiding behind their website.

“It’s a nightmare – we can’t contact doctors, we can’t get hold of consultants and it’s having an effect on the patients.

“It’s very frustrating and it makes working very difficult – in something as important as health care, this sort of thing shouldn’t happen.”

Local city councillor Gill Mitchell, who works at the hospital and lives in Kemp Town and is herself an O2 user, said: “For O2 to have removed their mast in the full knowledge that there was no replacement and therefore no phone service to their customers is an utter disgrace.

“If there is one place where a phone is needed, it’s at a hospital.

“I am calling on O2 to work with the hospital trust and restore its service to local residents, patients, visitors and staff as a matter of urgency.”

A Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals spokesperson said O2 had not informed them of the problems they were having in finding a replacement site and the loss of coverage has come as a surprise to everyone at the hospital. O2 have failed to name a date when normal services will resume in the area, infuriating residents and hospital staff.

A spokesperson from O2 said: “We’ve optimised nearby masts to help reduce any impact for customers using their mobile phone.

“These incidents are rare and we are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause while we work to find a solution as quickly as possible.”

The hospital was forced to purchase phones and beepers from other service providers in order to combat the communication problems.