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Patientline ups charges

Bleeding patients dry

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Patientline is more than doubling the price paid by patients making phone calls from hospital.

Calls from a hospital bed currently cost 10p a minute, but this is going up to 26p. Patientline provides internet access, televisions, and phones for hospital patients.

Patientline claims the cost is justified because of its infrastructure investment.

Incoming calls are also charged at far more than the national rate - calls are charged at 39p a minute off-peak or 49p a minute on weekdays between 8am and 6pm. TV services are £3.50 a day, games are available for 30p a go, and internet access is 10p for 2.5 minutes.

The company was investigated by Department of Health regulators for excessive charges last year, but cleared of any wrongdoing.

The company told the BBC it was cutting the prices it charges for TV access, which is what the majority of patients use most.

The company has had a captive market for phone calls thanks to the lack of payphones in hospitals and the ongoing ban on mobile phone use. Last month, health minister Andy Burnham said there was no need for the ban on mobile use except in some intensive care and premature birth units. ®

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