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Patientline goes into administration: Few tears shed

Patientline Bedside System

Patientline Bedside System

I note with interest that Patientline, provider of controversial bedside phone-cum-television-cum-internet consoles in NHS hospitals, went into administration on Friday.

My posts on Patientline – dating back as far as 2005 – received numerous comments complaining about the overpriced nature of the system, as well as the poor customer service users received, yet I’ve always been one of the first to defend the system against criticisim of high prices: That particular problem has come as a result of poor contractual negotiations on the part of NHS Trusts countrywide.

The contracts negotiated vary from the flexible terms in which the systems are cutsomised and integrated into the hospitals IT system, to crazily imposing terms whereby the units’ screens can’t even be switched off during daylight hours. The NHS Trusts who allowed the units to be installed must have been aware that this private company was primarily interested in profits, yet allowed the installation to go ahead regardless: In some cases, through apparently give-away contracts.

The company spent hundreds of millions of pounds providing expensive equipment to patient bedsides across the country – replacing simple TVs which used to exist on wards. They then attempted to charge up to £3.50 per day for individuals to watch their souped up TVs, and charged up to 49p per minute for people to phone the units.

This represented unacceptably poor value to hospital patients – after all, who wants to pay £24.50 per week for Freeview? – and has ultimately resulted in poor value for the NHS: Essentially, patients are getting much the same service provided by the TV in the corner of the room and the portable payphone for many times the cost.

It’s easy to see the apparent advantage to NHS Trusts – able to boast about an apparent improvement in service whilst neglecting to mention the increased cost to patients – yet it’s hard to see how, at those prices, investors didn’t see Patientline’s business plan as critically flawed before it even got off the ground.

Private companies are, by definition, interested primarily in profits – not in the best interests of patients. This is the fundamental problem with PFI projects in the NHS, and that the government fails to see that time and again shows either great naivety or great incompetence. I suspect I know which.

The ghost of Patientline is rising, pheonix-like, in the form of Hospedia, who are attempting to become the monopoly provider of such services – and oversee the spread of these terminals yet further. By investing a further £12m in improved services and cutting prices, Hospedia hopes to make a go of this business. I’m not convinced it’s possible… I guess only time will tell.

» Image Credit: Patientline publicity image

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics, , , .

Diary for 27th July 2008

Mr Brown’s current favourite refrain is that he is “Getting on with the job”. When will he realise that many want him to do the opposite? «

Carol Vorderman’s treatment by the makers of Countdown is shocking, and I don’t share their confidence that the show will go on without her. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , , , , .

Summer Books: Never Push… by Guy Browning

Never Push When It Says Pull

Never Push When It Says Pull

The fifth book I’ve picked for my Summer Books series is perhaps the most summery of the bunch so far: Never Push When it Says Pull: Small Rules for Little Problems by Guy Browning.

Guy Browning is one of a very few newspaper columnists whose pieces genuinely make me laugh out loud, thanks to their absurdist satirical view of everyday life. Browning’s How to… column in the Guardian is one of the joys of my Saturday mornings, and this book is the second collection of these columns – a follow-up of sorts to the previously reviewed Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade.

The fact that I find each individual column laugh-out-loud funny means that the book is like a little bundle of hilarity, which, whilst good for me, is perhaps not such a good thing if you happen to live with me or sit next to me on public transport – unless, of course, you like the sound of apparently inexplicable hysterical laughter at random moments, and public book readings from some seemingly crazed idiot.

Unfortunately, like most things in life, the columns lose all humour when read aloud by someone who can’t stifle their manic giggling, and so it’s crucial that you, dear reader, become the first person you know to read this book. And, surely, this summer provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy some light humour.

Alternatively, it’s the perfect book for reading at random, in odd moments – after all, each column is only about 500 words, and each is an individual nugget of joy. Read it when you’re stressed at work and need some light relief, read it while relaxing on the beach, or read it on the toilet. All are decent options…

This is the first of my Summer Books which both I and everybody I’ve shared it with have really enjoyed – so I guess it’s probably a pretty safe summer bet.

» Never Push When it Says Pull: Small Rules for Little Problems by Guy Browning is available now in the sjhoward.co.uk shop

An earlier version of this review was posted here on sjhoward.co.uk in October 2005. It has been extensively rewritten for the ‘Summer Books’ series of reviews published on sjhoward.co.uk and Gazette Live.

This post was filed under: Summer Books, , , .

Diary for 24th July 2008

Eddie Mair’s masterful pasting of the News of the World’s lawyer on PM today was the best bit of interviewing I’ve heard in ages. «

It’s testament to Richard Whiteley’s work ethic that two supposedly more experienced presenters – Lynan & O’Connor – couldn’t hack the load. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , , , , , , , .

Newspaper misspells own name in masthead

Valley News's front-page oopsie.

Valley News's front-page oopsie.

It seems that the New Hampshire-based Valley News managed to misspell its own title on its own masthead on Monday by appending a superfluous ‘s’. Quite impressive stuff and, rather extraordinarily, not spotted by anybody involved in the production process.

No doubt if I owned a newspaper, stuff like that woud be happening all the time. But perhaps that’s not surprising given that I come from the home of the Southport Visiter, consistently misspelled for 164 years, and read theguardian – a paper not best known for its spellchecker, and whose spaceless nonsense masthead has fascinated me since its introduction.

On a more serious note, with editors everywhere laying off subeditors, claiming that they are no longer relevant or necessary in the multimedia newsroom, could there be a more prominent, clear demonstration that the role is still vital?

Without subs, accuracy suffers, whether it be grammatical or factual. And in the ever-more competitive world, where the internet means that CP Scott’s maxim that “Comment is free, but facts are sacred” has never been more true, what do newspapers have on their side, if not accuracy?

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous, , , , , .

Diary for 22nd July 2008

Just had my first experience of booking train tickets under the new, simplified system. It was just as ludicrously time consuming as before. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , .

Diary for 21st July 2008

Today’s Daily Mail has no fewer than 17 coupons to cut out and collect. If I want a crap DVD or vile encrusted hairclip, I know where to go. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , .

Diary for 20th July 2008

I’m sure drivers exhibit a negative correlation between familiarity with the highway code and familiarity with their car horn. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , .

Summer Books: On Royalty by Jeremy Paxman

Paxman on RoyaltyAnd so we arrive at the fourth review in my Summer Books series, this week examining Jeremy Paxman’s On Royalty.

This, Paxman’s latest commentary on the state and history of our nation, made for a very interesting read. He essentially presents a well-argued case for retaining the monarchy, whilst simultaneously recognising the manifold flaws, improbabilities, and injustices of the system. And, actually, I rather agree with his point of view – which, to some degree, makes for a less challenging and engaging read. I always think it’s always more interesting to read things which challenge your views, rather than things which reinforce them – though often, things which challenge your views end up reinforcing them anyway.

Paxman uses an awful lot of history of our monarchy, and several throughout the world, to flesh out his argument, and there is obvious potential for this to become very dry and dull – a potential that, fortunately, is never fulfilled. Paxman crafts a cogent, coherent, and entertaining argument, presented with the wry, dry humour for which he has become renowned.

The real beauty of the book is in Paxman’s narrative. It would be easy for a title such as these to lose its narrative thread, but by providing a clear argument running throughout the book, Paxman manages to engage the reader and maintain their engagement, even when explaining complex historical events – albeit in a very accessible style.

Paxman provides a robustly constructed, irreverent, and entertaining guide to an institution he argues is simultaneously (and paradoxically) anachronistic, yet relevant and essential to today’s society. To a person like me – relatively poorly informed about British history – Paxman provides a great introduction and makes a clear argument for retention of the monarchy, whilst also allowing his trademark personality to shine through.

I thoroughly enjoyed On Royalty, and would happily recommend it, especially as a ‘Summer Read’: Its humour gives it appropriate summer levity, whilst its recurring themes and central message make it thought-provoking and memorable.

» On Royalty by Jeremy Paxman is available now in the sjhoward.co.uk shop

This review was originally posted here on sjhoward.co.uk in June 2007, and has been re-versioned for the ‘Summer Books’ series of reviews published on sjhoward.co.uk and Gazette Live.

This post was filed under: Summer Books, , , .

Diary for 17th July 2008

The linguistic viral outbreak “a.m. in the morning”, as in “I had to get up at 2am in the morning”, is rapidly becoming an irksome epidemic. «

I note that the new stands of branded products in M&S seem perpetually full: Just a hunch, but maybe people shopping in M&S want M&S stuff. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , .

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