(2) what the average cost per minute for (a) outgoing and (b) incoming telephone calls from hospital bedside units in each hospital trust was in each year since 1997;
(3) what assessment her Department has made of the financial impact of telephone charges from bedside units on patients.
Three private companies are licensed to provide bedside entertainment systems in England. These are hospital telephone services (HTS), Patientline and Premier Managed Payphones. Patientline was the only supplier of the service prior to the NHS Plan announcement in 2000 and subsequent licensing of the suppliers.
The cost of outgoing calls has remained constant at 10 pence per minute (minimum 20 pence), for local and national calls.
The incoming call charges have remained constant for Patientline and Premier at 39 pence per minute off peak and 49 pence per minute peak.
HTS charges per minute were; 14 pence in 2002, 17 pence in 2003, 20 pence in 2004 and they currently charge 35 pence.
International calls and calls to mobile phones vary.
The licence documentation contains guidance on acceptance charging strategies within the national health service.
No assessment has been made of the financial impact of telephone charges from the bedside units on patients.
Bedside telephones represent an enhanced service, providing additional choice for patients. Patients not wishing to use these services remain free to use hospital payphones as they have always been able to in the past.