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Hospitals: Telephones

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 26 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 7 February 2008, Official Report, column 1462W, on hospital telephones, what estimate his Department has made of the average cost of an incoming telephone call to a child's bedside telephone; and what assessment he has made of the effect of telephone charges for incoming calls on parents' ability to contact their children while they are in hospital. (190518)

The Department recognises how stressful a child's hospital stay can be, which is why the average length of stay has been reduced to two days. The most important issue is to ensure that a child's stay in hospital is kept to a minimum, consistent with achieving a good recovery.

The relevant national service framework for children states that children should have the comfort and reassurance provided by personal contact with close family members. Wherever practicable, hospitals make suitable provisions for parents to stay overnight with their children.

Where this is not possible or practicable for parents to stay, mobile telephones may be used in certain areas of the hospital and bedside telephone systems allow children to maintain contact with friends and relatives.

The cost of a telephone call to the bedside system in a children's ward varies, although, in most cases, it is 39 pence per minute off peak and 49 pence per minute peak rate.

Other options exist for people not wishing to use the bedside telephone systems. These include the traditional payphones and hospital switchboard facilities and mobile telephones which ensure parents can be kept up to date on their child's progress.

No assessment has been made of any effect of telephone charges for parents calling a child while in hospital.