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Friday, January 20, 2006

Ofcom investigation into the price of making telephone calls to hospital patients

Ofcom Website | Ofcom own-initiative investigation into the price of making telephone calls to hospital patients

Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, has published the results of it's investigation into significant concerns about the level of charges for incoming calls to hospital patients by Patientline Limited ("Patientline"), Premier Managed Payphones Ltd ("Premier"), certain NHS Trusts.

Users of the services, which allow patients to be in contact with family and friends directly from their hospital bed, are required to listen to a recorded message each time they call.

Inbound calls cost an average of 49p during peak hours and 39p off peak per minute, but there is currently no option to skip through the recorded message.

They conclude:

"that it would not be appropriate at this stage to continue with this investigation. Ofcom considers that the best outcome for consumers would be achieved by:

* the submission to the Department of Health of OfcomÂ’s concerns regarding the basis on which bedside communications and entertainment services are provided in major NHS hospitals; and
* the Department of Health and providers entering into discussions to examine whether services can viably be provided on a basis that does not involve charging high prices for incoming calls."

For many patients the opportunity to stay in touch with friends and relatives while they are in hospital is an important part of their recovery/treatment & the bedside units which enable this and other entertainment services, can be a real benefit - however excessive profits made at their expense do not seem appropriate, and hospital bans on the use ofmobile phones may come under greater scrutiny.

I hope that the discussions between the companies concerned and the department of health will be able to find a way to overcome these worries.

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