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Criticism of Patientline Costs

The Observer reports today that

A private company is being accused of charging NHS patients exorbitant rates to use the phone and watch TV.

This is a private company which has paid to help improve NHS services. As with any private company, the most important thing for them is that they make money, and they’ve spent millions of pound installing the Patientline service with the government’s backing. Now that they are trying to recoup those costs, and make a profit, it is the private company that is being critcised.

This seems deeply illogical to me – the NHS is so misfunded that private companies are having to be brought in provide the services which patients view as necessary. Patients are then asked to pay for these services, because the government won’t. And yet it is the private company which gets criticised.

Michael Summers, chairman of the Patients Association: says: ‘It’s critical that people who are unable to visit a sick, elderly or very young patient should be able to get through to them at a reasonable price. These charges are too high and callers should be told very clearly how much they’re paying for the service.’

Surely in a National Health Service, it is the job of the government to provide ‘critical’ services. Their failure to do so should reflect badly on them, not the private companies they invite to step into the breach. And I’m quite surprised that The Observer of all newspapers has chosen not to point this out.

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

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Comments and responses

Comment from Alan

    20.44, 03/08/2005

Iniquitous! Fair enough that one must pay for a call to a patient but at 49p a minute peak rate? Also, it may not be obvious but you start paying as soon as the system answers your call but you do not get put through to the patient for a whole minute – so you have already paid 50 p before you even get through. If enough people complain to OffCom or whoever, maybe something will be done about this. I am certainly going to complain now. In addition I shall make sure ALL the relevant newspapers are made aware.

Comment from Anonymous

    21.26, 12/07/2006

my sister has been in hospital for 4 months now and as a single mother on benefits she has no spare cash to pay for luxuries like patient line. Because i need to keep in contact with her and cant let her spend all day in a hospital bed without a TV i have paid over £600 on patient line services. The highest part of this bill is for telephoning her on the ward.
She is going to be in hospital for a few more months by which time i will have used all my savings.
the problems concerning long stay patients are not taken into consideration.
i work on spread sheets and in a finance department but it took me 4 days to work out the charges etc on her patient line account that i obtained, it was totaly confusing and had no understandable method whatsoever. i wanted to do so in order to have written proof regarding the scandalous charges being made.
i intend to use this to make a complaint.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    21.51, 12/07/2006

Anonymous of 12 July – Good luck with your complaint. I totally agree that the PatientLine charges are utterly extortionate. Why the government felt that PatientLine represented an improvement for patients is unclear to me – at the very least, a maximum charging rate should have been imposed before the devices were installed.

I’m aware of at least one hospital in the North East where those awful flashy screens can’t even be turned off during the daytime. I certainly couldn’t get much rest to aid my recovery with those things flashing all over the place. It’s another utterly ill-conceived Labour-supported interference of the money-grabbing Private Sector in NHS care. Thanks, Tony.

Comment from John Gooding

    19.28, 26/07/2006

I have just spent 5 days in hospital and I’m absolutely incensed at the exhorbitent price that patientline dare to charge per day to watch TV (£3.50) I asked the company rep if the company was owned by a decendent of Dick Turpin as he was hung just for robbing the healthy!!

I understand that a private company must make a profit, but is it any wonder that patientline can’t. Did they not bother with market research before they started?

Of the ten people on my ward over the five day period only two cards were bought out of a possible fifty, and that included 7 over 60’s who could have had it for half price!!

Can someone get Sir Richard Branson to get the NHS out of this unholy mess or let me know where I can start a campaign to help the thousands of people who are bored to tears in our hospitals.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    23.10, 26/07/2006

It is interesting to see that PatientLine’s website contains details of charges for these services. I could’ve sworn they charged different amounts at different hospitals – and certainly thought it was more than £3.50 per day at one of the hospitals I’ve worked in. I was obviously wrong…

Just as a thought, would you be more willing to pay these prices if a high proportion of the money was donated to the hospital, rather than going straight into PatientLine’s profits? I think it’s an interesting idea.

The idea of Branson sorting out the NHS is quite appealing, though…

Comment from Alan

    01.22, 27/07/2006

If you wonder why the government felt that PatientLine represented an improvement for patients then look at he list of companies and individuals which have made donations to the Labour Party. You will wonder no longer.

Comment from Sonya

    11.38, 22/09/2006

Patientline is robbing sick people and taking advantage of their vunerability. Most of the patientlines are faulty where they cant switch channels or the card wont slot in. When you speak to the operator which is a call centre in Scotland. They cant really help you and are not really concerned. To get technical help you have to wait till the next day when they dont even turn up and in the mean time youve lost youre money. Trying to get a refund for their fault is even worse. They have no empathy at all. you get charged £3.50 for 24 hrs of tv but if u switch tv off at night u still get charged for it. You cannot bring your own tv in as the NHS have got a contract wid patientline and nurses tried to say the hospital have no tv licence. Actually this is false as if you have a tv licence at home uyo are covered to watch tv anywhere. Calls to the patientline is a rip of and when you do get through you go straight to a answer machine. The NHS need to do something about this.

Comment from Alan

    07.51, 23/09/2006

Complain to Ofcomm and Oftel; then something might be done.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    10.53, 23/09/2006

Alan – Ofcomm are likely to be largely unhelpful, because PatientLine doesn’t break any regulations. If the Government has negotiated decent contracts with PatientLine, and kept up their end of the bargain by paying to have medical and logistical applications put on the system, then the call charges would be lower.

Comment from Alan

    11.30, 23/09/2006

You say that Patientline doesn’t break any regulations. This is untrue. PatientLine stipulate that they charge 49 p per minute at peak rate. However, because of hidden costs involved in being answered by a machine before getting through to the patient, the actual charge for being connected to the patient is more than 65p per minute. When my wife was recently in hospital, three not very long phone calls to her accounted for 50% of our monthly telephone bill. The calls should have cost about £6, according to PatientLine’s published charges. They actually cost over £16.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    11.41, 23/09/2006

I apologise Alan, I didn’t realise. It would appear than an Ofcom investigation is ongoing, so getting in touch with them is not a bad idea at all. And it has to be said that

Calls directly to the patient’s bedside cost 39p per minute off peak and 49p per minute peak

makes no mention of an automated answering service – indeed, ‘directly to the patient’s bedside’ suggests exactly the opposite. Interesting.

It may possibly be of no use to anyone, but I just felt it would be helpful to note here that PatientLine do have a Freephone customer service number – 0800 959 3100 – so if anybody has any urgent queries, that may well be the place to try. There’s further contact details at the bottom of this page.

Thanks for putting me straight there, Alan!

Trackback from elsewhere on the site

15th April 2007.

This post has been referenced by another on this site:
sjhoward.co.uk » PatientLine Costs

Comment from upset patientline payer

    17.40, 13/05/2007

My g/f has been in inverness hospital for 3 days, spent over £35 ;-( a good service but far to much, she used £10 credit on 3 mobile calls lasting no longer than 7 min, then was cut off from the tv, so another £3.50 min charge to connect tv, use the payfone at the hospital if you can 45 min mobile call £2 😉
Its a rip off……………. patientline ………… more like ripoffline……….

Comment from Paul G

    21.52, 27/05/2007

75 seconds of pre recorded waffle before being alloweerd to talk to your loved one is totally unacceptable, as is the high price per minute charge. Add in the car parking charge at the hospital of £2.50 for two hours (the ward visiting time limit is 2 hours) so if your not careful and do not return within the 2 hours it then costs £4.00 to park.
I have been making two phone calls a day to the ward and have made two visits to the hospital a day for the last four days, all in all very expensive.

Comment from Alan

    05.35, 28/05/2007

Paul G should complain. Complain to the hospital, complain to PatientLine and complain to Ofcom. No-one will ever do anything about this until and unless enough people make a fuss.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    08.36, 28/05/2007

However much fuss is made, nothing will change. PatientLine were allowed to put these devices in hospitals at great cost to their company with very few restrictions on their use in most hospitals. That damage is done – the contracts are in place, and now hospital managers might be starting to realise how stupid they’ve been.

Comment from Jane

    12.16, 28/05/2007

I am a dialysis patient – a regular captive customer for patient line – three times a week for 4 hours at a time. I pay the standard 24 hour charge fior using the TV for 4 hours at a time. There are two shifts a day in the dialysis unit – and we all pay the standard 24 hour rate for 4 hours use – i.e Patient line get twice the money(48 hours orth) for a total of 8 hours service – I have asked for reductions in the dialysis wards and was told by their services that they were looking into it – three weeks ago – nothing since – is this standard in all dialysis units?And where would I take this to get a more positive response?

Comment from Alan

    12.40, 28/05/2007

Complain complain complain. It does pay to make a fuss. Above all, complain to Ofcom as patientline has breached the terms of their service.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    14.44, 28/05/2007

Jane – I know that my local dialysis unit doesn’t have PatientLine installed, just ordinary TVs… I’m not sure where you could take your concerns, but have you tried their national customer services (0800 959 3100 or Customer Liaison, Patientline UK Ltd, Galloway House, Crichton Business Park, Dumfries, DG1 4ZZ)? I doubt they’ll be terribly helpful, but it might be worth a shot.

Alan – If they’ve breached the terms of their service, then I agree – complain away! I didn’t realise that they had.

Comment from Dave

    16.13, 04/06/2007

I understand this is a service which is provided and is not mandatory. I personally think it is good service from when I used it. If I didnt want to use it I wouldnt have, I would have took a portable dvd player with me etc but i was curious. I am British myself but I must say British people express all negatives under the sun before a positive word is said, you always hear bad news but never good news, where online in forums will you hear praise, hardly ever, people go to forums etc to complain about issues because people like complaining, people are never happy there is always something to complain about. Nothing is perfect. Why use it if you think it is terrible? no one forces you to. Just because it is there does not mean you have to use it. why not do as you would have if this service was not in place? I believe the Government and NHS is more to blame. If we had a better Government who spent money wisely maybe the situation would be different. Thanks

Comment from Alan

    16.19, 04/06/2007

Who would complain if the service was provided as promised? But it isn’t; it costs much more than the advertised price and I am convinced that this is not a mistake – it is through dishonesty. PatientLine are deliberately misleading. I, for one have complained to Ofcomm and will continue to do so until something is done.

Comment from iris

    23.01, 04/07/2007

i cannot believe the complaints against patientline, u should think about how u can afford to use the bedside unit, if phones are too dear ask your family to phone ward staff as they always been able to, or if they phone your bedside keep calls brief, if you want tv you now have a choice of 3 days or 5 days which works out cheaper, i canny understand why everyone is so negative towards the bedside unit, think about the cost involved in fitting these, if you want to go back to the old way with tv in sittting rooms it wont cost you anything but you have to watch what everyone else watches, you can use payphones to phone out theyre in everyward still, but i am happy to pay for tv at my bedside, i dont have highly paid job but i can still afford to pay for luxury of having tv at my bed, i dont feel the need to compain to the staff like most patients, i have chosen to use tv, like you can choose not to, i think trusts should put tv in sitting room for patients who dont want to pay and that would cut out complaints, but i am happy to pay for mine

Comment from Anonymous

    18.38, 26/04/2008

There is no defence to a private company simply stealing money from sick patients by demanding that they pay for a card, simply to find the unit by their bedside is faulty and has de-credited all the money without being able to provide the service they have paid for. This is clearly in breach of the Sale of Goods and Services Act, and as such I shall be complaining to the Trading Standards office.

In addition, there was no one availbale to deal with the situation from Patientline, and it was left to over worked nurses to try to resolve the problem whilst the patient became increasingly stressed out that her money had been taken away.

Comment from Jane

    12.04, 21/05/2008

Further to my initial posting re Renal Dialysis Patientline charges – I got a result! Patientline charged the usual daily rate for a 4 hour period of use, but after complaining and complaining thay now offer Renal Dialysis users in our hospital a rate of £3.50 for a WEEKLY hire of 3X5 hour dialysis sessions. It is still expensive for the freeview service that they offer, but it is a lot cheaper than the £8.90 thst we paid originally!
I just hope other Renal Patients nationally are offered this service.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    13.28, 26/05/2008

Jane – congratulations, I’m really glad to see that you got a result. Thanks for letting us know, and I hope it will inspire others to continue to pursue their own cases.

Comment from Abuelodesam

    17.12, 26/05/2008

Re: Patientline. After waiting 44 days without response ( apart from standard auto generated reply ) to my request for a £5 refund, I sent off another e-mail demanding action on this matter. I was very pleasantly suprised to receive a personal reply, within 15 minutes from a Customer Liason Officer called Pauline Johnston. She was deeply apologetic that the matter had not been dealt with while she was away on annual leave.The matter is now resolved and I must give credit when due, especially as this was today- Bank Holiday Monday! Well done Pauline.

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28th July 2008.

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sjhoward.co.uk » Patientline goes into administration: Few tears shed

Comment from Frances

    17.04, 28/07/2008

Picking up on your advice to complain, complain,complain, please add my two pennyworth (oh that this was the price of a call!).

Patientline’s recorded message going just over one minute is a cynical strategy induced only by profit. I attempted to call my brother 43 times over a 2 week period but only got to speak to him once. Sadly he died last week and getting a phone bill with over £60 charged to patientline just rubs salt in the wound. I have just rung Ofcom to log a complaint but thereis no on-going enquiry at the moment. They informed me that only when sufficient numbers of similar complaints are logged will an enquiry be triggered.

Comment from John Procter

    14.31, 30/09/2008

Suffered the outrageous charges for using Patientline when our daughter was in hospital. Essential supportive calls menat we had no option.
Also, and of much wider concern is that the bedside equipment is not hygienic. As well as not included in normal ward cleaning schedules, earphone sponges are not changed when patients change. Now that is serious when considering the issue of serious infections blighting the NHS.

Comment from Refill your laser printer man

    12.15, 08/10/2008

If I start oin about these rip off merchants, I will end up needing a new keyboard!!! I just called ofcom and lodged my complaint so i recommend everyone reading this who has not yet done so also di it because they are monitoring this situation. Patientline have no reason to charge the prices they do. Also I called the Department of Health, the operator there told me I am far from the first person to phone them about this, He agreed with me about their prices and told me they do not have control, it is actually down to the individual trust. I called my Trust, Royal Hampshire County hospital and asked to speak to the department that deals with contracting the Patientline. I got through to voicemail and asked for someone to call me back. A nice chap did and turns out he works for patientline and not the trust. I told him that Patientline are idiots, There are 6 beds in my wifes bay and only she is using the patientline. I explained that they were cutting their own throats because if they charged reasonable rates, people would actually use it instead of not use it. I think someone else above pointed this out. One of my sayings is, It is better to have 10% of a million than 100% of F@@k all. So what patientline are doing in their business wisdom is cutting their nose to spite their face. Charge £3.50 for 24 hours TV and have 1 out of 10 people use it equaling a revenue of £3.50 instead of charging £1 for 24 hours TV and having 6 out of 10 people use it a revenue of £6. It is not Rocket Science is it????
in fact, Charge £0.50 per 24 hours TV and have 9 out of 10 people use it gives you a revenue of £4.50 instead of £3.50 even a pound is still a pound expecially when you consider the traffic through a hospital!

Bla bla bla. You admitted to hospital for tests that will last 4 or 5 hours, Having a baby etc. You are not staying 24 hours so you will not pay £3.50 for TV but you might pay 50p.. I rest my case your honour!
I think the people who make the pricing decisions at patientline need to find a job in a burger joint!

OK so back to what I was going to originally tell you.

The guy who phoned me back from patientline actually off the record agreed with me on the pricing structure and said he tries to tell the directors over and over again but he may aswell bang his head against a wall. What he did do was wack some credit on my wifes phone so she could ring me back!! he he he.. What you get for complaining to them

I told him, if they were not greedy and didnt want to take 49p per minute, I would not have refused to call but if they had said it will cost me 10p a minute, I would have probably called and chatted sh;; for hours..

Be safe in the knowledge that the downfall of every theif is their greed!

Comment from Refill your laser printer man

    12.27, 08/10/2008

John Procter just made a point that I did not even think about. Hygene on the terminal. He is correct. I was in visiting my wife yesterday and it is filthy. I bet that phone is riddled with staphylococcus

a type of bacteria that cause various infections. Staphylococcus aureus is commonly present on the skin and mucous membranes, especially those of the nose and mouth; it can cause pus-containing lesions such as boils, carbuncles and abscesses. Other strains are associated with food poisoning and toxic shock syndrome.

That terminal hangs in front of sick peoples faces, sneezing, coughing and ultimately, their skin touching the butttons and the handset..

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus

It truly now is a scandal and the Government need to be held responsible!

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