As recommended by Ofcom in their report of January 2006 into the price of making telephone calls to hospital patients, the Department set up a Patient Power Review Group (PPRG) in February 2006 to explore how communication services could be offered to hospital patients with a lower per minute price for incoming calls. The PPRG’s report will be published today.
The Patient Power Review Group has considered:
all aspects of the charging structure;
the requirement to install, with limited clinical exceptions, units at every bedside within a hospital site, irrespective of use;
the requirement to offer services through a combined unit, offering television and telephone and capable of offering added value services; and
the need to clarify guidance on use of mobile phones in hospitals
The Department welcomes this comprehensive report which sets out the complexity of the issues raised by Ofcom and remains committed to giving patients more choice and control over their environment.
Consequently, the Department will continue to work with the suppliers to look at how changes can be made to deliver benefits to patients, their families and the NHS from these systems. It will relax the licensing arrangements from February 2007, removing the constraints identified by Ofcom for new contracts, and issue guidance that clarifies where mobile phones can be used in hospitals without infringing patient privacy and dignity.
Copies of the PPRG’s report and the Department’s response have been placed in the Library and are available on the Departments website at:
The Department of Health’s response to the bedside televisions and telephones (Patient Power) Patient Power Review Group report, published 23 February 2007.
Following a number of complaints about the cost of incoming call charges to bedside telephones, Ofcom launched an investigation into the patient power systems, introduced by the NHS plan. In January 2006, the investigation concluded on the basis that the Department of Health and the service providers would work together to address the issues raised.
The Department of Health set up a review group to explore all aspects of the charging structure, the requirement to install (with limited clinical exceptions) units at every bedside within a hospital site, irrespective of use, and clarify the guidance issued by the Department of Health in respect of trusts exercising their own discretion in determining the local policy on the use of mobile phones in hospitals.
The review group published its findings in a report on 23 February 2007. It contains six recommendations for the Department of Health to consider. The Department’s response to these recommendations is shown below:
Patient Power Review—Recommendation (i): The Department of Health should continue to support the roll-out of the patient power programme across the NHS and, with the service providers, should engage in further discussions about potential mechanisms to address incoming call charges.
Government response: The roll-out of the patient power programme is complete, in respect of the NHS Plan commitment (July 2000). All targeted major hospitals have now signed a contract with their chosen supplier to provide the service, and over 160 hospitals have an operational system in place. The Department will continue to work with suppliers, to consider further ways of reducing the incoming call charges to the benefit of all users of the bedside systems.
Patient Power Review—Recommendation (ii): The Department of Health should encourage trusts to review economic and infection-control related best practice concerning the in-house cleaning of bedside units.
Government response: The patient power national licence assumes that the service providers are responsible for cleaning the terminals as part of the general maintenance programme. The non-extension of the national licence will pave the way for NHS trusts and service providers to renegotiate the terms on which the bedside units are cleaned for the benefit of the NHS and the service providers.
Patient Power Review—Recommendation (iii): The Department of Health should continue to work closely with the service providers to support the development of the income generation projects that provide additional benefits for patients and staff.
Government response: The take-up of the additional services for the NHS has been slow to materialise, which suggests that trusts are not convinced about the benefits to patients and the cost savings to be made. Five pilot projects have been identified to address this issue and the Department will continue to work with the service providers to determine the benefits, to patients and the NHS, of these services. Although the Department cannot mandate the services into the NHS it will communicate the potential benefits to help it to make a decision on whether to invest in any or all of them.
Patient Power Review—Recommendation (iv): The Department of Health should issue further guidance to NHS trusts on the use of mobile phones.
Government response: The Department will promote the current guidance, and in response to inquiries from the NHS, will issue further guidance in spring 2007. It will focus on privacy and dignity issues, and point out what NHS trusts need to consider when determining where to ban and where to allow the use of mobile phones.
Patient Power Review—Recommendation (v): The Department of Health should give careful consideration to future licensing arrangements, following the expiry of the current licences in February 2007.
Government response: The review has been made more difficult by the complexity of the licence and concession agreements. Therefore, the Department will not renew the current licensing arrangements. In doing so, it will remove the constraints that Ofcom identified in its investigation. Current concessions remain valid for their duration but may be renegotiated with the agreement of both parties. Trusts without a system in place can work locally, with service providers to negotiate a new contract.
Patient Power Review—Recommendation (vi): The Department of Health should reply formally to Ofcom’s letter of 19 January 2006 in which it set out the findings and recommendations of its investigation.
Government response: The Department will formally reply to Ofcom’s letter of 19 January 2006.