Monday, May 14

Not Taking Care of Communications

Patientline - there is an alternative.
By Peter Troy

Apart from upsetting nursing staff and patients many Hospital Trusts and just about the entire press corps covering medical issues throughout Britain what have Patientline actually done for sick people in hospital? Well, they have provided 175,000 patients with their own personal bedside television, radio, internet and telephone units (BSUs) some with the facility to assist with the smooth running of hospitals such as providing a daily meal ordering service. In many of the hospitals where Patientline has installed the facility on the BSUs it provides medical staff with valuable medical notes at the bedside.

So why has Patientline's previously tarnished reputation gone from bad to worse in recent weeks

It is all to do with being fair, us Brits put up with a lot but when it comes to being unfair we as a nation get annoyed, very annoyed. This is being reflected in both national and local newspapers Patientline has annoyed the great British public

The recent 'price restructuring' is a lesson in corporate incompetence. By 30 April all of Patientlines' 175,000 BSUs across 160 hospitals had been ‘reflashed’ with the companies new prices. Out went the reduced rate for patients over 65; up went the out going call charge to 26 p (previously 10p) with a minimum call charge of 40p per minute; in came the new flat rate reduced charge of 2.90 per day (previously £3.50) and £7 for three days and £10 for 5 days sounds good but there is a sting in the tail.
The company made lots of corporate noise about reducing prices, all well and good until one considers the detail. Patientline’s pre pay cards that are available from frequently faulty vending machines and frequently over stressed staff are only available in units of £3.50, £5, and £10. Paying by debit or credit card is not patient friendly either since only £5 units can be bought.
Thus a short term patient seeking to buy three days TV and not use the exorbitantly charged telephones cannot actually pay £7.00 they have to hand over £10. The real sting comes when patients realise that the reduced rate TV has to be continually viewed - go for an operation and spend a day recovering the meter will still be running on the TV unit.

Patients over 65 are no longer able to pay the reduced rate of £1.70, the free telephone call to loved ones available on signing up to Patientline’s system was abolished as was the free half hours viewing.

It is all a sorry state of affairs and there is more detail to be found 'under the carpet'. It is not all Patientline’s fault, even though they have been greedy in their quest for contracts with hospital trusts. Some of the blame has to lie with government, The Patient Power programme which fuelled Patientline's expansion was very much hyped by Tony Blair and Alan Milburn (former Secretary of State for Health) five years ago.

The solution to the current unsatisfactory state of affairs is actually quite simple. The individual NHS Trusts should take over the Patientline operation as non profit making companies for the benefit providing a better service to patients which was the original idea.


To help petition for lower charges from Patientlines email:


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