Coronavirus: Phone company 'greedy' over hospital phone charges

By Michael Buchanan
BBC News social affairs correspondent

  • Published
Southport and Formby General HospitalImage source, Google
Image caption,
Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust has had to restrict visitors due to Covid-19

An NHS trust has been told it would have to pay almost £10,000 a month to provide patients with free phone calls during the pandemic.

Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust has had to restrict visitors due to Covid-19.

It asked the company that provides bedside telephones about diverting the costs to the trust and was told it would be charged £9,984 a month.

Hospedia was contacted by the BBC but has not commented.

The trust said it was disappointed with the company's suggested charges and has raised the matter with NHS England, which awarded it the contract to provide phone and TV services across dozens of NHS trusts.

'Flipping outrageous'

Irene Simpkin's 87-year-old mother Odile has been in Southport and Formby District General Hospital for almost a fortnight after suffering multiple pelvis and hip fractures in a fall.

She made a 16-minute call to her mum and said she was charged £11.33.

Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
Irene Simpkin said it was "outrageous" to be charged £11.33 for a 16-minute call to her mother, pictured

"I thought that it was flipping outrageous, just horrendous. I just think it's very, very greedy," she said.

"There are so many people making concessions, why do these companies continue to cash in?

"While all this is going on, can they not just make some sort of a deal where they cut those costs?"

Hospedia uses premium-rate 0872 phone lines, which is the prefix often used for tarot readings or adult entertainment calls.

The company's website says it operates in more than 130 NHS sites and offers TV units, which attract a daily fee, and premium rate telephones at a patient's bedside.

According to its latest accounts, profits increased nearly six-fold last year to more than £2.5m.

Rosie Cooper, MP for West Lancashire and a member of the health select committee, said she had written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock asking what can be done about the call costs.

"I am disgusted that this company is looking to profit off what is an incredibly difficult time for patients, family members and NHS staff," she said.

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.