Sunday, June 17

The Patientline Scandal

News of The World - page 14 -17/06/07. Click to enlarge

From the Editor's Breakfast table.
By Peter Troy
Congratulations to Dan Evans the intrepid investigator from the News of The World who went undercover at the Bolton Royal Hospital in Lancashire for four days as a Patientline Customer Services Advisor (Salesman). Dan's report yet again highlights the high pressure sales techniques that the hard pressed Patientline staff are being forced to use on sick people in the 160 hospitals in which this much written about company operates.

Comments I am told are pouring in on the News of the Word Site (some are even publishable) to the piece on page 14 of today's edition see (For the benefit of Lynn Peter's one of Patientline Deputy Managers who is keen to make anonymous comments on this site I was consulted by the newspaper last week - there will no doubt be more, much more revelations and comment to follow)

As regular readers are aware I worked part-time for Patientline at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough for eighteen months.(See Labels at the bottom of this piece to link to previous postings). I resigned in April in protest at Patientline's price changes which meant that sick people were forced to pay over £5 for two ten minute calls. Also, older and long term patients could no longer pay a very much reduced rate. I felt very sorry for the patients who were getting a poor deal and also for the Patientline Staff who were taking a lot of hassle both from nursing staff and from Patientline's Customers with virtually no support (or understanding) from Patientline's senior management.

Clearly Patientline is sales obsessed; where as the company should be obsessed with delivering a high level of service with value for money. Sick people would happily buy TV viewing time and telephone time if the service was reasonably priced and reliable.

Because of the company's operational difficulties and high prices only about 30 per cent of patients that could become Patientline's customers in fact do so. This is why Patientline's front line staff are put under extreme pressure to sign up patients and sell pre-pay cards and/or debit/credit card sales as well as extract from bewildered sick people the phone numbers from their personal address books; mostly by using devious sales techniques.

During most of my time with Patietientline at least 10 per cent of the bedside equipment was faulty at any one time; a problem that still currently is causing stress on the wards in most of the 160 hospitals that Patientline operates in across the UK.

Patientline's Senior Management are like the generals from the First World War - they are sending their sales staff over the top into the wards to face the mass hostility of both patients and nursing staff with unreliable equipment, dodgy propaganda, badly trained and badly led - the senior management hardly ever visit the sales front to see the stress and upset that the company is causing to sick people. Yet they continue to issue inappropriate sales targets. Lest the NHS Trust Managers forget what is being done on their wards.

Today's revelations in the News of The World highlight Patientline's Commercial Director, Charlotte Brown's comments to BBC journalist Nigel Satchel three weeks ago : "Patientline does not encourage hard-selling and our advisors are merely there to provide information and support to patients." To be kind Ms Brown clearly has no idea what is going on at the front - i.e. in the wards!

If Patientline's products were reliable, reasonably priced, simple to operate with support staff that were free of inappropriate high pressure sales targets Patientline would see an increase it its sales. Whilst Patientline's senior management remain oblivious to the stress they are causing on the wards (and not least to their own staff) they will continue to fail. But Patientline's failure is not in the public interest.

Since it is not, I submit to our readers, healthy for Patienline to continue to operate on the Wards of 160 hospitals with their current unacceptable business practices (as highlighted in the media in recent weeks) then Patienline should be closed down (this can be ordered by a court action from the DTI or as a health issue by the DOH) and their operation (including all frontline staff and equipment) could be run by non-profit making organisations set up by the individual NHS Trusts. If there is the political will to cut out the cancer that is Patientline quickly from the wards of 160 UK hospitals there will be a lot less stressed patients on the wards of NHS hospitals.

I feel a letter to my MP coming on.

Peter Troy, Sedgefield.
Update. The Comments on The News of the World site, linked below, justify this Blogs condemnation of Patientline in recent weeks.


Carole Westland said...

In mainland Europe the same equipment that Patientline use is priced at One Euro a day for TV rental and very little for telephone useage. The service is operated by private companies!

From the News of the World Website said...

Being employed by patientline myself for over 5 years I Know whatI am talking about.

Patientline has the worse reputation that I know off,they have no respect for there staff and the conditions that they work under ,I myself have been left at over 700 bedded hospital alone to work over 10 hr shifts,up to 3 shifts a week with the responibility to manage the work load including cleaning up to 7 wards, sweeping wards and selling cards and even fixing the units and changing tvs.When I approached management to say I was unhappy about the position they had put me in, was told if didn't like it than to find myself another job to which I have now done.

At first This company was all about helping patients to get the best out of the system and my job was to show them how to use it corectly and if the patient wanted a card they would phone free to arrange us to fetch it to them if they could not get out of bed or were to ill to get them. We were actually called CSA,which stood for customer services advisers, but a few years ago was changed to sales. we were given targets to acheive, which involved sales and not helping patients as much. It was due to a takeover by another manager who came from a brewery sales background who pushed us around, to achieve salemans tacticts to which we the frontline, all disagreed with but was told the bonus's would stop unless we done this, we ourselves did not have bonus's at southwales as we did not push sales. Staff shortages did not help and we was refused payrises for the last 2 years as mangement said there was no money spare as senior management seemed to have any spare.I feel sorry for the staff left as they are left to take all the flack of nurses and patients as all management care about are figures and sales and I myself have told patients to use their mobiles has in most places now it is safe to do so.This company should think of how to help patients and to give good rate for incomng and outgoing and good service and to look after there staff and maybe the company would reep in the rewards.Obviosly what they are doing now is not working,and I wonder why.

Janet Rigby said...

My mother was recently admitted to hospital with a suspected fractured hip not knowing the length of time she was going to be in we purchased a £5.00 viewing card, but were astonished to find that when the card reached the balance of £2.10 the tv refused to work anymore

we contacted the firm concerned to find out the reason why the tv would not work as she still had £2.10 left in, we also enquired could we top up the card with a further purchase to carry on using the tv and to use the remaining balance on the card we were told that this was not possible in other words we had lost the £2.10 and everytime you buy a card for £5.00 when it hits the balance of £2.10 it will stop working, but we could buy a £7.00 card which would give us 5 days tv, I find this totally unacceptable as purchasing a card for £5.00 one expects to get £5.00 worth of viewing.

It would of been acceptable if we could have topped the card up with futher purchases which would of then would of been added to the £2.10 balance but we were told that this was not possible, the only way my mother could use the remaining balance was to use the phone which she did not want to do, we also find it wrong the once the card is inserted if you watch the tv or not and if the tv is switched off the money on your card is being eaten away.

To summarise we feel like the whole system is daylight robbery to those who are in a unfortunate situation and who are not there out of choice but as an necessity. To conclude we feel something desperatly needs to be done were patients can purchase a tv card were they can use for the programmes they require and obtain the full value of their card purchase.

Anonymous said...

It is Peter Troy I feel sorry for.Obviosly a failed,bitter and twisted ex employee who feels the need to take retribution on the hand that fed him.I bet he did not refuse his salary because of his principles!
Patientline employ over 1100 people and is a British invention surely something to be proud of!
No patients are forced to do anything against thier will as implied.

Peter Troy said...

Not at all. As soon as Patientline abolsihed the reduced over 65 rate and increased the telephone rate by 160 per cent I resigned on principle. I could have claimed sickness benefit for an other 4 months but did not do so.

Patients as I have detailed now on many posts are getting a poor service from Patientline - only a junior manager in Patientline trying, but failing, to be clever would make the daft comments written above. Why not add your name next time, lets make this exchange interesting!

Anonymous said...


Peter Troy said...

Oh dear what a silly comment!