Health boards told to end ‘rip-off’ TV charges for hospital patients

A hospital patient watching TV. Pic: Monkey Business/REX/Shutterstock
A hospital patient watching TV. Pic: Monkey Business/REX/Shutterstock
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HEALTH boards have been told they should end “rip off” charges faced by patients who want to watch TV in their hospital beds.

MSPs complained in a debate at Holyrood about the “extortionate and prohibitive” costs for bedside televisions, like the £17.50 for two days or £5 for two hours at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

And Health Minister Clare Haughey said the Scottish Government wanted health boards to look again at deals when existing contracts came up for renewal.

During the debate, Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said patients often suffered loneliness, boredom and isolation if they did not have access to a TV while they were in hospital.

Instead they were having to “splash out on extortionate fees to watch television”.

He said: “In my own health board, NHS Lothian, at present, hospital bedside television is provided by Hospedia, with a basic bundle costing £17.50 for two days and—amazingly—£5 for just two hours. I hope that NHS Lothian will look at getting a better price for patients in Lothian when the contract is next up for negotiation.”

Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald said TV had helped make two hospital stays in 2017 - at St John’s, Livingston and the Western General - “more bearable”. But these two hospitals did not charge for watching.

He said comparing the prices charged by Hospedia, which provided 25 channels, with the £22 per month charged by a major satellite television provider for access to hundreds of channels highlighted “just how much patients are being ripped off”.

Highlands Tory MSP Edward Mountain, who sponsored the debate, said he was launching a petition calling on health boards to secure a “fair deal” on bedside TV and to provide free WiFi for patients in hospitals to allow them to access television via video streaming services.

He pointed out all the money from the charges went to the private company and the NHS received nothing.

Replying to the debate on behalf of the Scottish Government, Ms Haughey said: “We are in agreement with Mr Mountain’s request for all NHS boards to review bedside television contracts when they are next up for renewal.

“Indeed, we would go further than that and stress that it is our expectation that boards will not simply renegotiate existing contracts but will consider all available options, putting patients at the centre of any decision that is made.

“The Scottish Government is also in agreement with Mr Mountain that any charges for bedside television in hospitals must be proportionate and affordable. In addition to striving to reduce or eliminate patient charges, we urge boards to explore options for putting in place services that will provide more than just television and that will keep patients connected to their friends, their families and their lives.”

NHS Lothian said its contract with Hospedia was up for renewal this year and it was considering its options.