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Last Updated: Friday, 9 April, 2004, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
NHS patients 'forced to watch TV'
Patient watching TV
Over 17,000 of the sets have been installed on wards
Thousands of patients in NHS hospitals are being forced to watch television for up to 15 hours a day.

Over 30 trusts have installed TV sets that cannot be turned off during the day beside patients' beds, according to Health Service Journal.

Patientline, the company which supplies the sets, said they can be pushed against the wall when not in use.

But patients say the TV screens continue to flicker, with some saying it hurts their eyes.

Patientline has installed almost 60,000 TV sets in hospitals across the UK. Of these, around 17,500 cannot be turned off by patients.

We apologise to those patients for whom this is a problem
Spokesman,
Patientline
The sets are switched on by the hospital at 7am and can stay on until 10pm.

Patients pay to watch programmes. However, even if they choose not to use it trailers advertising the service run constantly.

Patient complaints

Matt Durcan, an IT specialist, said he complained to staff at North Hampshire Hospital after he was unable to turn off the TV set beside his son's bed.

His son had been admitted with suspected meningitis. Mr Durcan said the glare from the TV made his son's headache worse.

"The glare of the light from the screen hurt his eyes and exacerbated his headache," he said in a letter of complaint to the hospital.

"I tried to turn it off but this proved to be impossible even with help from nursing staff."

Robert McMaster, who was treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, had similar problems.

He told staff he was worried the TV sets could affect some patients' health.

"While not life-threatening, it may be dangerous to some patients and was clearly distressing to others," he wrote.

"I and other patients found it irritating to be subject to this continuous and unwelcome stimulation, particularly at night or when trying to rest."

Patientline said it had plans to change the TV sets.

"We apologise to those patients for whom this is a problem," said a spokesman.

"The lack of an on-off button on our first generation of bedside TV and telephone units was remedied with the new T2 terminals, which offer a number of improved features - including email and internet services.

"Once our present phase of installation is completed we will be offering T1 sites the opportunity to upgrade to T2 units."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "The majority of terminals now being installed in the NHS are type 2 terminals which do, indeed, have an off switch.

"Where the NHS is using the older type sets, technicians can be called to switch off the televisions.

"There is no noise disturbance to patients as the sets are headphone only."


Your comments:

Whilst my wife was in hospital after having our first child, she found the set invaluable due to the draconian visiting hours for partners which meant that until 11am and after 8pm everyday, she was without her friends/family. It also enabled her friends/family to contact her directly by phone (no money required for that service). The charges for watching TV were 2 per day.
Neil Brown, Chester, England

Years ago I spent long periods in hospital confined to bed. It can be very relaxing to be able to concentrate using the media whether it be books TV or Radio, especially when one is under nurse supervision. However I suspect having the TV screen on for several hours a day continuously is totally inappropriate and unacceptable.
Keith J Hall, Bristol, England

The "T2" sets have an on-off button, yes that's true. Sadly pressing it only brings up a message on the screen to tell you it can only be turned off between 11pm and 7am - at least that's how the sets in St Thomas' Hospital were set up as recently as last week!
Martin Reilly, London, UK

I and my fellow patients in an intensive care stroke ward at St George's Hospital, Tooting, SW London, in August last year also had this unwanted continuous TV forced upon us. The nurses were well aware of the problem, but at no time was any suggestion made that unwanted sets could be turned off by a technician. As you say, it was insufficient to push the screen against the wall, because we were still disturbed by flickering lights, not only from one's own screen, but from neighbouring ones and ones opposite as well, including those above empty beds. All the patients in my ward wanted to sleep from about 8.30 or 9pm, but were disturbed until 10pm by this unnecessary and intrusive TV. Hardly anyone chose to watch programmes, since all of us were recovering from a recent stroke.
David Hill, London, England

Without a doubt these sets are a nuisance. In my experience over the last year, not many patients use them, they are expensive and you need a card to insert and get them working, and at night they flicker away showing adverts and you cannot switch them off. Turning them to the wall just increases the glare which is reflected off the wall. If I remember correctly watching costs 1.40 per hour. Reaching them (to smash them!) is also a problem.
John Kirby, Chalgrove, Oxon




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"For some, it's made hospitals a real turn-off"



SEE ALSO:
Healthy high-tech future for NHS
02 Jul 98 |  Latest news
Hospitals to install pay TV
17 May 00 |  Northern Ireland


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