[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 06:06 GMT
The hidden costs of hospital
Julia Botfield at the Countess of Chester hospital
We reported from a hospital which allows patients to use mobiles
A trip to your local hospital can be surprisingly costly - for both patients and visitors.

While the NHS' medical services remain free at the point of delivery, the costs of parking your car, making phone calls and watching TV can all mount up.

Last week, we highlighted the different approaches to charging for parking. This week, we looked at bedside phones and TVs - and we were deluged with e-mails.

Thursday 10 March

Guy Jones, from Baisngstoke, who e-mailed Breakfast about his hospital experiences
Guy e-mailed Breakfast, after watching Wednesday's programme
We heard the story of one Breakfast viewer, Guy Jones, who contaced us after watching yesterday's programme.

Guy clocked up a 50 charge on the combined Patientline TV and phone system in just five days in hospital, after a motorbike accident.

Opening one e-mail alone cost him 4, because of the slow speed of the internet connection.

  • Well over 100 people contacted Breakfast yesteday on this - and if you've had experiences of hidden costs within the NHS, it's not too late to let us know. Jump straight to our e-mail form

    Wednesday 9 March

  • Julia Botfield reported live from the Countess of Chester Hospital, where they're now letting patients use their own mobiles in designated areas.

  • We heard from one woman who ran up a 200 phone bill in three months, by calling her mother on a bedside phone provided by an outside company.
    Hospital phone charges
    Hilary Bojowsky (left) ran up a 200 bill calling her mother

  • We also put some of your concerns to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.

    He told us he'd look into Breakfast viewers' complaints:

    "The promise is that the medical treatment is free in hospital and of course people are not charged for the beds.

    These are additional services from telephones to TV and parking.

    "Each health authority has been making its own arrangements and I will of course look into it - but the meical services remain free at the point of need."


    One company which provides dedicated bedside phones to hospital patients is based Patientline.

    It charges 10p per minute for outgoing calls, but incoming calls cost 39p off-peak and 40p during peak times. It also provides bedside TVs for patients - free for under 16s and half price for over 60s.

    It says the cost of phone calls could be lower, if the NHS contributed towards the high cost of setting up its network. It's required to install a phone at every bedside, however uneconomic.

    An all-party select committee of MPs which has been examining various NHS charges has ruled out the possibility of an NHS subsidy.

    What you told Breakfast
    My husband was in hospital for 5 months, some distance from home... I ran up a bill of 650 with Patientline. There was concessionary parking though although it took some time to find out about it.
    G Laughton
    If I use the bedside terminal, instead of the phone trolley, then I expect to pay for it. The NHS is free at point of use - this is wonderful - I don't have to sell my house to pay for an operation - great.
    Bill Steele, Sunderland

    But it did conclude that overall, Patientline's services benefit patients, because it gives them a service which wasn't provided before.

    In January, Ofcom closed its investigation into the cost of incoming calls: "without finding any infringement by Patientline and without requiring any remedial action".

    The select committee also noted that: "Patientline has been pressing the Department of Health for action to encourage the wider use of these systems by the NHS trusts,

    "both to improve the service offered by NHS acute hospitals and to permit a reduction in incoming call charges."

    Patientline is one of a number of companies offering bedside phone services to hospital patients, including Premier and Hospicom which is supplied by HTS Ltd (Hospital Telephone Services).


    The Countess of Chester hospital uses a slightly cheaper service from Hospicom. And it's lifted its total ban on using mobile phones, after lobbying from patients' groups.

    Although not allowed near sensitive medical equipment and on wards, mobiles are allowed in the coffee shop, main corridors and reception area.

    It's thought that the Deprtment of Health will announce a review of how the phone services are run.

  • Have you found your visit to hospital cost you more than you'd bargained for? Tell Breakfast about ANY unexpected costs associated with a hospital visit and we'll look into it.

    Your E-mail address
    Where you live

    The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

    Hospital phones: Wednesday
    Julia Botfield reports from one hospital where they've lifted the ban on mobiles

    Hospitals update: Thursday
    Hear Guy's story in his own words

    BBC Breakfast


    Hospitals: the hidden costs
    03 Mar 06 |  Breakfast
    Your Comments
    10 Dec 04 |  Breakfast
    Paying to park at your hospital
    02 Mar 06 |  Breakfast
    Review of bedside phone charges
    18 Jan 06 |  Health

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

    Has China's housing bubble burst?
    How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
    Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


    Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific