Hospital TV charges to double

David cameron on the wardAlastair Grant/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Hospitals are never the most entertaining places to be. In between bouts of extreme pain or real stress are endless hours of waiting and hoping, while we watch the minutes slowly tick by on the ward clock. It's no wonder that so many of us are willing to pay for TV services in order to make the experience more bearable.

The bad news is that the company running the vast majority of hospital TV services in this country has decided we're going to have to pay more than twice the current fees - and these are already alarmingly high.

Current charges

Hospedia, which rose from the ashes when Patientline went into administration in 2008, runs the televisions in 75% of acute NHS hospitals, across the UK. It offers a range of TV packages at the moment, including a charge of £2.50 for 2 hrs, £5 for 12 hrs, £10 for 2 days, £20 for 5 days, £30 for 10 days, £40 for 20 days and £45 for 30 days.

These charges would seem high enough. After-all, as the Sunday Mirror reported, even at £5 a day it means patients are spending five times the sums that prisoners have to hand over if they want to watch TV in their cells. We have to ask why patients would deserve more punishment than prisoners.

A survey by Which? found that 61% of patients already feel they are not getting value for money from the systems.Three quarters of those surveyed said they avoided using the hospital systems due to the cost.

The increase

However, the Sunday Mirror reported that things are set to get even worse, and that the charges are set to increase to up to £10 a day for a full satellite service with access to films. The new rates will include TV plus access to a telephone, which offers free calls to landlines. The catch is that you will no longer be able to get the TV service without the telephone access - so the minimum charges will increase dramatically.

You could argue that it was only a matter of time. Hospedia is in the business of making money, and since the Department of Health ruled that mobile phones could be used on most wards, demand for the phone services plummeted. Previously they were making massive profits by charging 10p a minute for calls, and the change in the pricing structure is designed to ensure they can still make those profits while people use their mobile phones.

No protection

However, you could argue that people in hospital have suffered enough, and they shouldn't be treated as sitting ducks for commercial companies to take for everything they can.

In an era where companies are taking over more and more essential hospital services, it raises the question of whether the government is doing enough to protect us from their need to make a profit from the sick, the elderly and the vulnerable. We have already seen the amount being spent on food shrink, the question is what's next?

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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