Granny racks up £550 TV bill at ERI

Patient Carolyn Hannan is calling for a review of the 'rip-off charges to watch television in hospital. Picture: Lesley Martin

Patient Carolyn Hannan is calling for a review of the 'rip-off charges to watch television in hospital. Picture: Lesley Martin

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A WOMAN with a chronic lung condition has been charged nearly £550 to watch television from her hospital bed.

Shocked Carolyn Hannan racked up the huge fee watching a pay-for box at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The sum could have paid for three £145 colour telivision licences – and a new wall-hanging plasma for her Penicuik home.

The outraged 47-year-old – who says the menu of films never change – is now calling for an immediate review of the “rip-off” charges.

She said: “This year alone I have spent £548, just for the basic TV package. I’ve paid my licence fee – why do I have to pay again? And there have been no changes to the films available during this time. There’s only so many viewings of Meet the Fockers, Mamma Mia, The Italian Job, Saving Private Ryan and Forrest Gump one person can take. It just seems like a total rip-off – once again the fat cats line their pockets, at the expense of the sick and vulnerable.”

The gran-of-three suffers from asthma and chronic alveolitis, a condition which causes a narrowing of the air passages in her lungs, and a thickening and hardening of her lung tissue.

The illness caused her to be medically retired four-and-a-half years ago and Mrs Hannan estimates she has been in and out of hospital over 20 times in the last year alone.

The former charity administrator also recently underwent a three- month course of chemotherapy which specialists hoped would help ease her condition.

She said: “Unfortunately that didn’t work, so we’re looking into other options. I’ve always had trouble with my asthma, but it’s only been in recent years that my health really began to deteriorate. In the last 18 months I’ve been practically immobile.”

She said she was appalled when she realised how much whiling away the long hours in her hospital bed had hit her finances. She added: “It does make me angry, it feels like we’re being completely taken advantage of.”

Unison’s Davie Forbes called the charges “clearly excessive” and “just another rip-off”, adding: “We’ve objected to these kind of charges for patients from the beginning.”

Dr Jean Turner of the Scottish Patients Association described the cost as “appalling”. She said: “It’s very unfair to force people to pay these kinds of charges when they are at their most vulnerable and most in need of distraction.”

Former health minister Malcolm Chisholm MSP also slammed the charges. He said: “There should be special conditions for people who are in and out of hospital long term.”

Television services at the ERI are provided by private company Hospedia.

Its spokeswoman said: “We are continuously reviewing feedback from patients.” She said the packages “receive an overwhelmingly positive response from patients”.

George Curley, director of operations – facilities at NHS Lothian, said: “Patients are able to choose the most appropriate package during their hospital stay, with the cheapest packages starting from £2.50.

“While we understand some patients may wish to access TV services, this contract ensures that we can better focus our resources on delivering safe and effective patient care.”

Charges vary according to pacakge

CHARGES for watching hospital vary according to what “bundle” patients opt for.

The ERI “mini bundle”, which has five channels and free radio, costs £2.50 for two hours or £45 for 30 days. The “value bundle”, which provides 20 programme channels and films watched in a similar fashion to those served up on jetliners, costs £7.50 for 18 hours or £35 for ten days. “Big bundles” – 20 channels and access to 50 plus films – costs £5 for eight hours or £50 for 20 days.

The top of the range option also allows free radio and web access, among other choices. A spokeswoman for Hospedia said it costs the company around £1500 to install each bedside entertainment system. The firmhas invested more than £190m since 2000.