Having spent so much time in a hospital over the last nine months I feel I must write a blog entry about Patientline. It’s probably more of a moan than a contribution to the wealth of useful news and information on the Internet.

Patientline is probably installed by most NHS Trusts as a solution to providing bedside entertainment and communication facilities such as TV, telephone and games, yet with inbound calls costing 39p or more to concerned friends and relatives, outbound calls costing at least 10p per minute and TV costing up to £108.50 per month it could be argued that while the facility exists it is not really available to those on low incomes, or even no income due to the very fact that they are in hospital. Once you have spent at least £147 on six weeks of television you become eligble to receive the service at half price, about £51 pounds a month, this is a fact that is not advertised but if you ask the operator for cheaper TV and you meet this criteria then they will arrange this for you.

Still, even £51 a month, or £1.70 per day as it is charged, is £10 more than Sky currently charge for their most expensive channel package, a package which offers all the latest movies and sports events. Patientline’s offering consists of 11 channels which are free through other providers (BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, ITV2, CH4, CH5, BBC News24, CBeebies, CNN and Extreme Sports) and 7 additional channels (Bravo, Cartoon Network, TCM, Trouble, UK Drama, UK Gold and UK Living). Some of the most popular channels, even free ones, available on other multichannel platforms are missing, such as BBC3, E4 and Sky1.

Having a daily rate for TV viewing makes sense when a large percentage of your patients are only going to be in hospital for a short stay, but the fact that each payment only lasts for 24 hours regardless of how much TV you watch makes the service an unviable solution for longer term patients or their visiting relatives, even if the only thing you want to do is keep up with a daily BBC or ITV soap for half an hour each weekday it will cost you £75/month. Where such high premiums are charged for the most basic of viewing I think it is unfair not to offer a better selection of content, either by including a wider range of popular channels or by including premium content such as movies and sport for what is, after all, a premium price. Better still, make the money last for a certain number of viewing hours, rather than a period of time from the moment of activation. Or, even better yet, offer a good selection of free UK channels for no fee whatsoever and then a good selection of premium channels for a premium fee.

At least 39p/minute off-peak and a minimum of 49p/minute peak rate for incoming calls is obviously designed to earn Patientline a lot of money, and when a relative is particularly concerned about somebody they may not listen properly to the warning about the call charges which last for about 50 seconds before you are connected to the patients room. What adds some extra frustrastion is that the service does not always work and the caller is cut off or put through to voicemail after 50 seconds. My Mum and Ladan’s Dad have both spent a fortune trying to call Ladan’s room when I have been here and the phone has been free and not set to go to answerphone but the Patientline service has kept failing to put them through after the recorded messages. Because there is nothing to indicate that the error is with Patientline callers will keep calling and giving more and more money to PatienLine without being able to speak to their loved ones. When such problems occur it is often possible to make a call via the operator by pressing 0 for operator assistance rather than entering the extension number for the room, on these occasions the operators are rarely apologetic for the inconvenience and expense that their system’s faults are causing. 50p/minute is overpriced even if the service will reliably do everything it is supposed to do, but its frequent failings make the high charge rediculous.

There is a payphone on most wards, ironically operated by Patientline, that allows patients to make outbound calls for as little as 30p for 15 minutes to UK land-line nunbers, so 10p/miniute for outgoing calls (with a minimum of 20p per call) is again very expensive, but not prohibitively so.

In reality, watching any amount of television with Patientline quickly becomes prohibitively expensive for those who are in hospital for a while, and incoming calls are so expensive that loved ones simply don’t call the bedside phone anywhere near as often as they would like nor do their calls last as long as they would wish. If Patientline could cut the cost of calling the bedside phone a reduced profit margin would probably mean increased profits as more people would feel comfortable using the service for inbound calls.

Patientline is a service with some merits, its headphones mean that people can watch tv in private without interrupting other patients and the phone facility means that you can get through to a patient (when its working) without having to call the main ward. The biggest problem is the pricing structure that makes it too expensive to use for a prolonged period of time.

29 thoughts on “Patientline”

  1. Yes I agree Patientline is the biggest rip off in Hospitals to-day.
    Why no offwatch for this company big profits for fat cats pockets.
    The price you pay would buy a TV and phone.
    All patients should take their own TV and mobile phones into Hospital and stand up to this company by not buying their service it would go under.

  2. I was appalled at the cost of phone calls made to and from an NHS hospital recently. It was apparent that the Patientline system was in use there. An incoming call charged at 39 pence per minute? Its more than an hotel would charge! And a captive patient not allowed to use a mobile phone, for quite spurious reasons of course, has no option! This is a disgrace, and patients have been seriously let down by the NHS. We can only hope that Patientline’s financial situaion, and Ofcom’s enquiry results in some major changes.

  3. Patientline claim that the high prices are to cover their investment in the equipment, and interestingly the ban on mobile phones being used on the wards is a condition of the agreement the hospital enters into with them. Nonetheless, I am sure that offering some free or fairer priced services would enable them to better sell what could be seen as “premium” services (pay tv, internet, games) for a premium price.

  4. 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 tevhnical 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.

  5. i used to work for patientline and i must say that it is a rip off and its basicaly taking the michael out off sick people. its atrotous how much it costs for tv and phone service, and they dont treat their staff very nice either, im so pleased that someone else thinks they are c**p!

  6. So why is this service allowed to operate? And how do we do something about it? I know the service could be provided a lot cheaper, even free after a while..

  7. i used to work for patientline too. what an appalling company to work for. its a total rip-off and i felt extremely embarrassed having to explain the pricing structure to patients. broken bedside units would not be fixed for WEEKS. and quite often incoming and outgoing calls to the bedside would ‘drop-off’ for unknown reasons. im glad im not there anymore

  8. well that’s a shame to you all – we’re all polite on the phones when you return the favour by staying calm whilst we deal with your problem. But seeing as you’re all complaining, had you maybe stopped being in the huff and asked one of the operator’s about what kind of services we offer, some are able to assist in offering you ways in which to reduce your cost. But if you’re concerned with complaining then they just will not help any of you – it’s a question of give and take, not take and take and complain!!! We offer half price tv to everyone who’s paid for more than 14 days of tv, so it’s a lot cheaper than £148 a month!! Still with you until 2010 it seems….

  9. ok so y is patientline always on the take if they can offer some people half price deals then they can afford to do it for all and at the high prices u charge SICK people the service should be perfect at the very least then u wouldnt have to deal with upset angry people because of faulty equipment imo the tv should be free and phone call service should be reliable fair enough make ur money on incoming calls,internet,email and games because these are luxury’s but tv has always been viewable from the bedside it takes the pi#s and should be closed down!!! DONT try to defend ur sen u have no argument
    take take we are paying u for a service it should be a fair price and reliable OMFG ur week!!!!

  10. in response to an earlyer comment about the nurses saying that the hospital doesn’t have a TV licence. The hospital must have a TV licence for all the paitentline TVs! its is such a rip off!! and don’t even bother trying to use the internet on it :@

  11. One major flaw in the above blog is that in fact the Trust’s dont install it, Patientline does and they pay for it all them selves incuring costs up to and exceding £1,000,000 per hospital.

    Offcom had an investigation into their charges and this cost was faulted as the main reason the system costs so much to use. Patientline were cleared of the investigation because of this fact.

    I get the feeling too many people want to blame a company for something without actually looking at the reason behind it.

    I can understand the costs being extremely harsh and over the top, I totally agree, but if you look at the financial record for the company, they have not made a single profit in the whole time they have been running.

  12. Give the company a break and do some invesitgation before grumbling – benefits of the company include free tv for children under 16, the nurses station phones are then less busy allowing for more important inhouse calls, also, nurses precious time isnt taken up relaying messages from friends and family to patients. Radio and 1 hour tv for those who cannot afford to purchase services, and also on registration 20p credit is given for that all important call. Furthermore, the company do supply concessions to long term patients and at the moment fantastic new pricing structures are being introduced. Afterall, it is not a service which patients MUST use, they use at their own freewill.

  13. Patientline are not making huge profits, they are not that clever. They do have very well paid Directors and Managers who put their staff under great pressure to sell the company’s services to sick people.

    The recent ‘restructuring of the prices of their products includes the abolition of the reduced rate for patients over 65, who will now have to pay the full daily rate of 2.90 and not 1.70.

    So long as prisoners reveive free tv and sick people have to pay there will always be complaints and only Politicians can put that right. Howvever, so long as Patientline operate with insensitivity and faulty equipment they will continue to to be critisised. Is there any wonder that their staff sickness levels are so high.

    ‘Bleeper’ – A member of Patientline Staff.

  14. I agree with the comments of the anonymous poster, i am also a member of staff and agree that while they are telling people they have cut prices of tv, no one seems to realise they have almost doubled it for oap’s and they have taken away the free morning tv and free 20p for the phone. Oh well, its us they push out there everyday to explain it to patients so why should they care!

  15. hi . i work for patientline and i agre with most f the things that are being said about the company. the staff on the wards get alot of abuse of patients moaning about the the prices . but i just tell them if thet dont like it dont use i its that simple. they are not forced to use it .if something is to dear to buy in the high street they wouldent buy it. and the people who go on about the phones are idiots the reason phones are banned is for peoples privacey . most phones now have cameras on , and iam ure the same people who are moaning they cant use them would be the first t moan if they had there picture on the interet or one of there chidren in an ucomprimising pose eg bon the bed pan or inthe bathroom. i agree the rices are too highe and the people who run the company are all idiots .but dont blame the people on the wardswe haven had a pa rise or 2 and a half years.

  16. I work in the call centre for paitentline and i have to say that yes the pricing structure is high but we as call operators are not uncaring and we do try our best to resolve a situation or problem. One thing i don’t like is people swearing and shouting down the phone at us as it is not our fault that the units have broken down and yes if people are absusive to us than the problem will never be fixed or resolved.we are thereto earn a living and do a job just like anybody else.

  17. While I sort of agree with the last poster about the fact that they shouldnt have to take abuse from anyone, the fact that sick people are being forced to pay top dollar for a crappy service which is also a monopoly might explain the reason why! As someone whos mother is currently undergoing a hip replacement, I resent the fact that the first minute of calling her (and paying lots for it) is taken up with a recorded message. This uninformative piece of drivel is just a way for Patientline to make a fast buck and its particularly annoying if it goes straight to voicemail afterwards because the bedside unit is malfunctioning. Patientline try to tell us that the ‘choice’ is there and the sick can always use the payphone on the ward instead…. not very useful when the patient is bedbound and the phone is screwed to a wall 50 yards down the corridor! Final point – the quality of the calls themselves seem to indicate the use of “Voice over IP” technology; after the initial infrastructure costs are covered, this costs next to nothing to run. Pretty much is true for the TV and internet too – it all goes down the same line. Its a con, pure and simple.

  18. Well I really don’t know where to start on this one. I have mixed views on all of the above.

    I have used the patientline system and at first thought it was fantastic, I am not somebody who worries much about money hence the large amount of debt I have so didn’t really think about the price. The TV I think is reasonably priced but I don’t agree that they took away the OAP concessions, I myself have a reasonable income and 2.90 a day suits me down to the ground rather than lay there in bed all day reading, although reading is fine for the most of it, it is like any activity if you do it all day you will be bored of it. Obviously an OAP has a substantially lower income than me and some of them live on as little as £30 per week.
    I think in this situation they should receive free tv altogether although I suppose a high percentage of patientlines customers are OAPs.

    I do not think patientline are intentionally robbing anybody as people have mentioned, yes there are ways they run the company which are a lot to be desired and they could do with going back to uni to stufy business managment, but ultimately they are only trying to do what every business is, make a profit. Which, might I add it has not made a penny in its entire history!

    I did however when I was in hospital get absolutely lovely service from the call centres, the staff were pleasant and apologetic when my unit did break. They troubleshooted with me and got the unit back online. I was surprised when I asked where the call centre was to find out there are two, one in Dumfries and one in Barcelona! Although the peeople I spoke to were expats living over there, unlike when I call my bank and I get somebody who hardly speaks a word of english and I cannot understand.

    Maybe we should all take a leaf out of their book and stop compaining about weather we can watch tv when we are sick and go and live somewhere hot and sunny and work in a call centre. To be honest there is no wonder some of you are in hospital if you allow it to upset you so much. You are probably bursting a blood vessel or having a heart attack for taking life too seriously.

    Is it life changing to be able to watch TV? Why not take a book, a portable dvd player or a laptop.

    I also want to talk about the call charges. I totally agree with the person who commented about the minute long recording first, but apart from that I think the call charges are not too bad to dial out as long as you dont call a mobile. I think people are getting the idea of the system wrong, it is not for people to sit yabbering away all night, really when you are in hospital all you really have to say to a loved one is what your progress is etc its not like you have exciting tales to tell and need to talk for an hour. I used it just to call and say “hi its me, im ok, coming home tomorrow see you in visiting hours.”

    Anyway in conclusion, good idea, reasonable tv charges, high call charges for longer use, I dont agree with the 1 min recording but I would rather have the service than not and that means paying for it. Oh, and take life a little less seriously, please?

  19. I also had great service from the call centre staff! The charges are high but remember, it´s not their fault! Patientline are probably charging us a fortune and paying their staff pittence!

  20. I work in the Patientline call centre, and while I understand where much of the criticism comes from, I genuinely believe much of it is unfounded.

    I think a lot of people forget that Patientline is an optional service. Phones/TVs etc are provided for a patient if they choose to use them, they are not forced to do so.

    There are still direct lines to wards which can be used in an emergency or to check up on how a patient is doing. This is no different from the way it was before Patientline. Patientline has not taken anything away from people wishing to contact relatives, they have added an extra option which the NHS are unwilling to provide free of charge (and rightly so in my opinion).

    A patient in hospital for 5 days can have unlimited access to TV, Internet & computer games for just £10. Add 15 minutes of phone calls a day at 26p/minute you have just under £30 for 5 days entertainment.

    For a lot of people, life outside hospital costs considerably more than £6 a day so when broken down, perhaps it’s not ripping people off as much as many people like to make out.

    For me, £6 a day is a small price to pay in exchange for the knowledge that my dying relative has something to take her mind away from what is going on around her.

    Perhaps it isn’t Patientline who should be taking such a good look at itself. Perhaps it’s the relatives of these sick or dying people who make so much noise.

    If you don’t like the service, don’t use it. It’s an optional extra, not a right.

    If you choose to use the service, fully aware of the cost involved, (as I make myself before purchasing anything, it makes sense!) don’t complain about it afterwards. Nobody made you do it!

  21. Also, I should really mention the new pricing scheme.

    Under previous charges, a “long-stay” patient received television at a reduced rate of £1.70/day after 14 days consecutive use. For the first 14 days, television was charged at £3.50/day.

    Now, television is charged at £2.90 for one day, £7.00 for three days and £10 for five days regardless of length of stay, meaning far more people benefit from a reduced rate.

    Under the old system, 3 weeks of TV came to just under £61. Now, 3 weeks of TV comes to £45.80. Unlimited use of the internet & various computer games are included in this price. As every £20 of credit purchased comes with a £3 bonus, 3 weeks of TV, internet & games costs a patient just £40, which benefits far more people than the previous “long-stay” system did.

    I agree that removing the half-price rate for OAPs is not the best bit of business. Although if they are in hospital for five days or longer, which many OAPs are, it has only gone up by 30p per day, or 60p per day if they are in for three days… Admittedly not ideal, but it is the one negative change in what has largely been a positive step.

    It is also worth remembering that while the cost of outbound calls has risen by 16p per minute, the cost of calls to a bedside unit have dropped by 23p per minute. I have yet to see that mentioned in the various blogs and reports.

    Free TV is still provided to all patients under the age of 16 & under some circumstances free TV can be given at the request of a nurse if it is felt that TV will be beneficial to the recovery of that patient.

    The 40p charge for calls that are not connecting is a bug. As far as I’m aware it’s one that is being sorted out as I type. However, If a call goes through to an answerphone, it has connected & will be charged. No phone network can tell the differnece between an answering service picking up or a person picking up!

    We’re doing our best folks, and I think it’s actually just about getting there. No one’s paying me to write this, I just honestly believe Patientline is a good thing that’s gone through some bad management, hopefully those days are behind us now.

  22. wquyai cant believe the moaning about tv company in hospital, i think its brilliant, i have no qualms about paying for tv, it made my stay so much nicer, if you think about it properly, we get meals in hospital so we dont have to buy food each day so i see that as the money i would have used can pay for my telly, we dont have to use phone, to save money there just use it briefly, just think about it instead of moaning, but majority of british people complain about everything, they blame everyone for there problems, you people are embarassing, if you want some good things in life you get a job and pay your way, half the people that complain i dont think you have worked, get out there and get a job in the real world, get of the drink and drugs and earn your keep like us and give us a break from your moaning, nothing is free in this world, dinny have loads of kids and youll have more money, those moaning greedy people get on my nerves big time, everywhere you go they moan about everything, you should hear yourselves, think about it

  23. I agree completely with the previous post. An argument I have always made is that if you choose to spend money on patientline while in hospital, it will probably be the only thing you pay for during your stay.

    Sadly we do live in a society which thrives on misery. Every day we become more & more like the USA, a country where it’s unlikely a doctor can go two years without facing a lawsuit. The longest news segments are on some new misery, we even have negative advertising to promote many products.

    This is a country which loves to complain, and it is the people who complain the most who tend to shout the loudest. The majority of customers go away happy, they just don’t think to phone the newspapers and rave about how much better their stay was because of it. And rightly so! There are far more important things, like feeling better and getting on with life, than thinking about your hospital TV service.

    If only a newspaper was willing to look at the positives. If only we lived in a society who were interested in reading about something positive. If only…

  24. What a bunch of whining little biatches! If ya dont like it, dont use it! Arnt you saving more on food alone each day? imagine having a life full of such petty concerns! Im glad i dont hang out with such negative people. Lighten up for gods sake. we’ll all be dead soon! I loved patient line (and im poor) oh and all you paranoid cynics that think you are being ripped off, waken up to the actual costs involved – dont you know that patientline are running at a loss? So, to sum up

  25. “imagine having a life full of such concerns”

    Exactly! Imagine being stuck in a hospital for an extended period of time and unable to talk to your friends or relatives without it costing you a fortune, and for them not to be able to talk to you without it costing them a greater fortune whether they get through to you or not, and if they don’t it might be because you couldn’t take the call or it might be because the people who are charging your friends and relatives 50p to try and talk to you are losing the call somewhere.

    Thankfully hospitals are being advised top allow mobile phones now, except where they may interfere with sensitive equipment, hopefully that means that phones will no longer automatically be banned from wards with Patientline installed.

    As for the tv If the NHS made back the money charged on the tv system then you could argue the off-set against food, which is provided at a lower cost than the tv service. However they are too distinct services, Patientline is an entertainment and communication service which, because it has a deal with the hospital, can take advantage of its exclusivity. Compared to any similar service, that I am aware of, they charge far far over the going rate. If Patientline staff can provide links to similar services (tv and/or communication systems in hotels or holiday camps for example) charging more than they do then that would be a useful comparison.

    I am not against Patientline, ad I doubt any of the people complaining are, but given that the hardware has been installed the pricing structure should encourage greater use of the service. Charging for services that everybody else provides free of charge (such as the five main terrestial channels) means that when there is no credit the box gets put out of the way, or, in other words, temptation is out of reach. If the five main channels were free the box would be kept closer at hand, if there was nothing on those channels temptation would be in reach, just from a marketing perspective a fairer system may be more profitable. When a relative calls in, if they know the number they want they should be able to enter it immediately and get through within seconds, not spend 50p listening to a recorded message that they have heard several times, if they know that somebody was having an operation and may not have finished they won’t want to keep wasting 50p every ten minutes to see if they are finished and it all went well, but if it only cost a few pence, and if the service was reliable and getting through to the right person, they might keep trying.

    Patientline need to let more people use their service at a fairer price rather than try to make silly money out of those who do use it, unless, that is, the system is already near capacity in which case the pricing structure makes sense.

  26. As an ex Patientline employee from the Call Centre in Dumfries I can confirm today the company is shafting everyone from employees to consumers that use the service. The equipment is hopelessly outdated with a never ending set of faults that never get fixed leading to a lot of frustrated customers. The staff in the hospital try their best but the technical support for them is non existent they also suffer from a woeful lack of training. The training in the Call Centre is also pitiful, people are practically thrown on the phones with no experience of the system which in turn frustrates our customers. All in all the company is f*cked and would be better crawling back under the rock it was conceived from.

  27. “The training in the Call Centre is also pitiful, people are practically thrown on the phones with no experience of the system which in turn frustrates our customers”. How much more training did you need? More than the 3 weeks given? More than the training manual given to assist? Possibly why you are no longer a PL employee and gladly so!!!!!

  28. patientline is not a rip off if you dont like it dont use it . simple as that. as for pensioners and people on benifits do all the supermarkets give discounts to you . no they dont so you dont buy what you cant afford simple as that . i would like a rolls royce but i cant afford one but i dont keep moaning about it and expect them to give me it cheap. everything that we have we have to pay for somewhere along the line so stop your moaning

  29. This blog entry is now quite old and Patientline has changed a lot. It is quite horrific that they still charge 49p/minute for incoming calls and charge even if the patient isn’t there to pick up their phone. As far as I am aware mobile phones are still banned as part of the Patientline contract, even on wards where they are otherwise deemed safe.

    I am not sure if there is a way to close comments on a blog entry, since most of the comments were made a long time ago when Patientline was more expensive and offered less I think it would be apt to end the comments here.

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