AN elderly heart patient was left stunned when he was hit with “extortionate” charges for using a bedside TV service while recovering in hospital.
Great-grandad Henry Patrick, who qualifies for a free TV licence at his home, had to use money from his savings to pay for the Hospedia facilities during his three-week stay at Sunderland Royal.
The 76-year-old, who also suffers mobility problems, was left virtually bed-bound after being taken to A&E with heart problems.
The retired shipbuilder, from Hylton Road, Sunderland, was cared for on a ward while doctors carried out tests and monitored his condition.
Today, his daughter Annemarie Ditch, 39, branded the £45 total cost “extortionate” and insisted that there should be special discount rates for OAPs on low incomes.
“I don’t know how they can get away with charging so much,” she said. “We couldn’t believe the total at the end of his stay.
“It seems wrong that outside hospital, in his own home, my dad can watch the TV for free because he get a free TV licence.
“But the minute he has to go into hospital because he’s ill, he has to pay through the nose. He only watched it a couple of hours a day.”
The mum-of-three, who works as a care assistant, said many patients have no alternative but to use the facility.
In order to use the system, they buy prepaid cards which gives them access to TV, phone and radio services.
“My dad was pretty much confined to his bed,” said Ms Ditch. “He couldn’t do much else but watch the TV at his bedside.
“He was on a ward where pretty much everyone was very poorly. There wasn’t much to do.
“He couldn’t go anywhere. He couldn’t do much and he was undergoing a lot of tests.
“We took books in for him, but he was finding it hard to focus for long periods of time because of his condition. He even struggled to watch the TV sometimes.”
Hospedia, the company that provides telephone and entertainment systems to patients in hundreds of hospitals, has defended its rates.
A spokeswoman said: “We regret that Ms Ditch was unhappy with the pricing of the Hospedia services her father used during his stay.
“In the past, the service has been criticised for the price of outgoing calls, so since our acquisition of Patientline in 2008, we have worked hard to establish a pricing structure that offers both value for money and is sustainable for the business on a long-term basis.
“Over 70 per cent of our customers now rate the packages as offering value for money and patients typically see savings of 33 per cent when compared to the old Patientline prices.
“We recognise that some patients continue to pay for their TV licence while they are in hospital while others, such as Ms Ditch’s father, are exempt but our service is available to anyone regardless of whether they pay for a TV licence or not, so we are unable to discount the price on this basis.
“We have trialled a number of entertainment packages that offer a range of prices to better meet the needs of patients and reduce the costs for particularly vulnerable patients such as the elderly and long-stay patients.
“At Sunderland Royal Hospital patients are now able to make free unlimited outbound calls no purchase necessary and can get 30 minutes of free TV just for registering on the system.
“The price of the TV package reduces as a patient stays over a longer period.
“For example, a patient buying a package for six days only pays £2.50 a day for TV and unlimited outgoing calls.”