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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Losses up at hospital phone firm
Patientline entertainment system
Ward closures have hit Patientline's revenues
Patientline, the company that provides bedside phone, TV and internet services for NHS hospital patients, has seen its annual losses more than double.

The company reported a pre-tax loss of 24.7m, up from 11.5m last year, after it was investigated by regulators over the level of call charges.

Patientline said the negative publicity from the investigation had put people off using its phones.

It also said that its revenues had been hit by ward closures and empty beds.

Last year, telecoms regulator Ofcom said it was to look into the charges imposed on calls to hospital patients by their relatives, after complaints that they were too high.

Ofcom cleared Patientline of any wrongdoing, saying the firm was not profiteering and that the price levels stemmed from the terms of the licences issued by the Department of Health.

The Department of Health has set up a review group that is now looking at all aspects of bedside telephone and entertainment systems in hospitals, and is due to report to ministers later this month.

Fewer wards, fewer calls

Patientline chairman Geoff White admitted the company had been through a "very challenging period".

The company said that the Ofcom investigation had had a "detrimental" impact, as the company had halted investment in new terminals and the negative publicity had made patients reluctant to use its phones.

It added that NHS ward closures and empty beds had also hit revenues, as had the decision by some hospitals to allow patients to use mobile phones.

As a result, average revenue per terminal per day fell 7% to 1.73, and Patientline said this decline had continued into the current financial year.

Dissatisfaction with Patientline's performance saw the company's previous chairman, Derek Lewis, forced out by shareholders earlier this year.

Shares in Patientline have fallen by about 80% since July last year, and on Tuesday were trading down 8.25p, 46.48%, at 9.5p.

Mr White said that he was now conducting a major review of the company and all its operations.




SEE ALSO
Patientline boss faces quit calls
13 Feb 06 |  Business
Review of bedside phone charges
18 Jan 06 |  Health
Patientline hit by Ofcom inquiry
25 Jul 05 |  Business

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