Sunday, February 10

Patientline's Prognosis

The Board of Patientline, now well recognized as the most despised private company in Britain, were compelled under company law last month to gather their shareholders to an embarrassing meeting at the troubled hospital telecoms group's headquarters in Slough.
The situation is that the company is seriously failing and in the process is continuing to add considerable stress in some 70 hospitals across the country. Following an article in Yours magazine at the end of last year the editor of this blog receives regular calls from relatives of mostly elderly patients accross the country concerning the frustrations and cost caused by Patientline's operational failures.

The painful decline of Patientline following well spun support from Tony Blair's 'Patient Power' programme during the height of the 2001 telecoms bubble is well documented both on this blog and in the MSM. Once Patientline was a stock market darling, as shares soared to more than 200p but they have since fallen by more than 99% and are currently only worth around half of one penny. The long term omens were never good: Patientline floated in March 2001 at 175p, just as the dotcom bubble burst. With dealers' screens around the world turning red the shares closed down 8½p on the first day of trading.

Patientline had promised to revolutionise hospital wards. Its system - the first of which was installed in Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, in 1995 - not only allowed patients to talk to relatives and watch TV, it also promised to allow staff to read electronic notes at a patient's bedside and enable patients to order food. Derek Lewis, the ambitious chief executive of Patientline, claimed the system would save lives. The technology, however, was not cheap and the company's directors showed little understanding how to control the monster they had created.

The cost of installing terminals was substantial, at around an estimated £1,400 a bed, the quality of equipment was poor and the ability to provide an acceptable level of service proved beyond capabilities of the company's senior management.

Patientline footed the bill for installing over 72,000 terminals across the UK in return for an exclusive 15-year contract with NHS trusts. The huge investment - it has run up losses of £100m since floating in March 2001 - has never paid off. Principally because as we have stated many times on this blog Patientline failed to understand the needs of its patients and constantly over charged for a unreliable TV and telecom services.

The company tried to recover its investment by a crazy attempt to raise call charges by 160pc which sparked a political outcry and it was forced to back down; following huge publicity on the operational short comings of Patientline (which this blog took an active part in exposing).
A damming decision by Ofcom that an overlong recorded message (which callers had no option but to pay for) played to callers to patients informing them of the maximum potential cost of their calls caused further damage to Patientline's thin credibility.

The loss making group currently has around £90m of debt, which continues to rise as revenues continue to fall and Patientline's auditors have raised "significant doubts" over the its ability to continue as a going concern. Despite which Patientline continues to advertise for new staff (operational staff turnover is massive) and at least 30 per cent of its hospital ward bedside units are now in some way faulty at any one time.

The prognosis for Patientline's shareholders doesn't look good and petitions signed by distressed patients and their relatives continues to arrive in Very British Subjects Royal Mail mail delivery. It really is time now for political intervention, this company must be forced to cease trading it is simply causing to much distress to sick people which will only get worse as it festers in its self created corporate decay.


Anonymous said...

It may interest you to know that in most parts of the country now all site managers are being forced to go out onto the wards and sell.They are akso being targeted on this and have to explain every minute of their working day.I wonder if this is in the hope they all leave to avoid paying redundancy when the company finally collapses and the banks who are owed all the money take over with a much smaller wage bill.How can they also keep advertising for staff.Any person with a job would be very unwise to leave a job and take a position with them

Anonymous said...

Should the banks not be selling to Virgin.I am sure Richard Branson can sort out this mess.Ousting the incompetent Directors and management

Peter Troy said...

The overpaid over confident over greedy senior management and Direcotrs of Patientline should hang their heads in shame at the ongoing stress they are causing on the wards. The Deparment of Health should actually now put a stop to this mess and terminated Patientline's contracts.