Health bosses to scrap 'rip-off' TV charges at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
HEALTH bosses are to scrap the “rip-off” scheme which sees patients at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary charged £5 to watch two hours’ television.
NHS Lothian has given a year’s notice that it is ending the much-criticised contract with private company Hospedia which provided the bedside TVs in the Capital’s biggest hospital.
No other hospital in Lothian has been involved with Hospedia.
The infirmary, in line with other hospitals in Lothian, now has free wi-fi, so patients who have tablets or laptops with them can use their own devices for their viewing.
But the health board says it will also review the situation to see if other options are needed.
The Hospedia contract - which also charges £17.50 for two days’ use of their TVs - has been controversial for a long time.
In 2013, the Evening News reported how a woman with a chronic lung condition, who was in and out of hospital 20 times in a year, had racked up charges of £550 for watching TV.
And when the provision of TV in hospitals was debated at Holyrood earlier this year, MSPs condemned the “extortionate and prohibitive” costs faced by patients.
Health Minister Clare Haughey told the parliament the Scottish Government wanted health boards to look again at deals when existing contracts came up for renewal.
NHS Lothian held talks with Hospedia in April, when their contract was about to expire. It said at the time its options were keeping the status quo, renegotiating terms, ending the contract, exploring other providers or only providing free patient wi-fi.
Wi-fi was originally due to be installed at the infirmary in December, but it was delayed because priority was being given to IT at the Sick Kids and the size of the network circuit for the Infirmary had to be increased. It was eventually made available this summer.
Lothian MSP and Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “I am pleased that the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has finally introduced patient wi-fi at the hospital, despite it being due at the end of last year.
“Edinburgh Royal Infirmary is one of the last hospital in Scotland to introduce patient Wi-Fi and I am glad that patients can now benefit from it.
“I strongly agree with NHS Lothian’s decision not to continue their contract with Hospedia, that is costing patients an extortionate amount of money to watch television.
“NHS Lothian must now start to look at what entertainment will be made available that is affordable and suitable to patients, before the Hospedia contract finishes in August next year.”
Edinburgh Western MSP and Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton welcomed the ending of the Hospedia contract but questioned whether wi-fi was an adequate substitute for all patients.
He said: “It’s good NHS Lothian have recognised the problems with high hospital entertainment fees, but it leaves me concerned there might be no provision to replace it other than wi-fi.
“It potentially excludes those patients who do not have access to mobile internet-capable devices, particularly older people.
“In the year before the contract ends I want NHS Lothian to consider the needs of all patients, not just those with smart phones or tablets.”
And Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson also urged consideration of those without technology.
“It’s good to see an end to the rip-off TV contracts that have become all too familiar for anyone who has stayed in the Infirmary,” he said.
“But I would also ask the question, what people who don’t have a smart phone or tablet are meant to do.
“It’s important for anyone’s recuperation that they are relaxed and therefore the provision of TV or other forms of entertainment are important for the hospital to consider.”
George Curley, director of operations and facilities at NHS Lothian, confirmed Hospedia had been given 12 months’ notice of cancellation of their TV contract at the Infirmary.
He said: “We are installing free Wi-Fi throughout the hospital and we believe this will be the most popular option to access entertainment and other communications. There are also televisions in certain areas of the hospital including patient sitting rooms.
“Over the remainder of the notice period we will continually review the situation to see if other options need to be considered. Our priority is to make sure that patients do not experience any loss of access from their communication needs.”