Sometimes hospital entertainment systems are all patients have to keep them occupied. But the cost of using these systems, which combine a TV and phone, could put many of us off using them all together.
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to be stuck in hospital recently you may have had access to a ‘bedside entertainment system’ – a combined telephone and TV set that also offers internet, radio and even games for patients.
Prices vary across different hospitals, but you could expect to pay between £1 for an hour of credit, or £20 for twelve days.
And although phone calls out shouldn’t cost any more than 10p, if your family or friends want to give you a call while you’re languishing in bed, they could be charged as much as 49p a minute. You could phone your long lost uncle in Australia for less than that!
Vulnerable hit by big costs
As for watching telly, since you may not be lucky enough to know how long your hospital stay will be, you could be stuck paying as you go, which could rack up big costs over time.
What’s more, your hours of credit will start being eaten up as soon as you start watching, but switching the telly off won’t pause your credit for later use. No, you’ll have to buy even more credit next time.
When I broke my arm and spent a week in hospital without TV, I was bored to tears by the end of it. But there are examples of patients in much worse situations where the problem is even more acute.
If you’re suffering from a serious condition, for instance, you could be stuck in hospital for months where TV might be your only company. Plus, you’ll want support from your loved ones over the phone, but being struck by a hefty phone bill won’t keep spirits up.
It seems unfair that people who are at their most vulnerable are being forced to shell out for simple home comforts that can make a stay in hospital less daunting.
No obvious solution
But what should we as patients expect in this age of cuts? As a recent Watchdog investigation reported, the private companies that maintain these services aren’t making the huge profits you might anticipate.
The problem is a little complex, but when the systems were introduced in the early 2000s both the NHS and these private companies thought there’d be enough demand to get prices down. However, with the rise of mobile phone use, companies have struggled to break even and claim they can’t afford to make it cheaper than it already is.
The NHS and Ofcom investigations couldn’t find an obvious solution, but the companies have said costs could be brought down if extra services, like letting patients order hospital food through the systems, were subsidised by the hospitals.
Have you or someone else been shocked by the price of these hospital entertainment systems? How would you feel if hospitals paid for some of the cost to reduce the price for patients? Maybe there isn’t even a place for them in this age of iPhones and laptops.