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Hospitals: Fees and Charges

Volume 461: debated on Wednesday 6 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps she has taken to reduce the cost of (a) telephone, (b) television and (c) car park services in hospitals for patients requiring long term care; (139807)

(2) what the average price of the use of (a) the telephone and (b) televisions for patients in hospitals in the north-east was in each of the last 10 years.

Each provider of the bedside telephone and television service set their own charges subject to the limited concession requirements set by the Department. The Department is not in a position to dictate ongoing price policies of private companies who take sole financial liability for their operations.

Following the conclusion of an Office of Communications (Ofcom) investigation, in January 2006, the Department set up a review group to explore how the bedside services could be provided without charging as high a price for the incoming calls. The review group concluded that there was no easy quick- fix solution to this issue.

The fixed price of the outgoing call cost up to April 2007 was 10p per minute (minimum 20p).

The incoming call charges have remained constant for two of the service providers at 39p per minute off peak and 49p per minute peak. Charges per minute for the third service provider were; 14p in 2002, 17p in 2003, 20p in 2004 and it currently charges 35p.

The average charge for use of the television since 2001 is £3.50 for two of the service providers and £3.00 for the third, for a 24-hour period. Some of the service providers offer a reduced rate television service for long stay patients.

The largest provider of the systems recently reconfigured its charging structure, which resulted in increasing its outgoing call charge to 26p per minute (minimum 40p) and reducing its television package to £2.90 for a 24-hour period.

It is for individual national health service bodies to set the level of charges for car parking provided on their premises, taking into account local circumstances. The Department of Health has issued guidance which recommends considering concessions for certain types of patient, but final decisions lie with the NHS body.