Hospital Phone Call Charges To Soar

The cost to patients of making telephone calls from their hospital bed is to increase by 160% from Wednesday. Patientline, which charges people to make phone calls and watch television in hospital, is to increase its call charge from 10p a minute to 26p.

It told the BBC the move was necessary because it had never made a profit despite investing £160m in the system.

The move has angered patients and hospital staff with many in the NHS viewing the charges as unfair. Patientline charges patients £3.50 a day to watch television and £2.20 for an hour on the internet. The firm posted losses of £25 million last year. It says it is reducing the cost of television to £2.90 a day to compensate for the higher cost of calls.

For people outside hospital calling patients at their bedside the cost is 39p per minute off-peak and 49p a minute peak.

An investigation by Ofcom, which regulates phone and television services, last year claimed the firm could be breaking competition laws because of the high charges for dialling into hospitals. It recommended that the Department of Health reviewed hospital bedside telephone and entertainment systems.

Andrew Stronach from the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital said: “We have written to Patientline to formally object and to demand a meeting with them to discuss this step. They have agreed a stay of execution for two weeks and as a result they will not be putting up the charges here from today.”