Andrew Lansley defends looped hospital bedside message
Andrew Lansley has defended a welcome message played on a continuous loop in English hospitals in which he tells patients their care "really matters to me".
His face appears on bedside screens every few minutes, asking people to thank staff looking after them.
Patients can switch the screens off but the health secretary says it is a "useful message".
One NHS campaign group says his face is the "last thing" patients want to see.
Those who do not turn it off are greeted by the health secretary saying: "Hello, I'm Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary.
"I just want to take a few moments to say that your care while you're here in hospital really matters to me. I hope it's as good quality care as we can possibly make it and I do hope you'll join me in thanking all the staff who are looking after you while you're here."
But Geoff Martin, chairman of campaign group Health Emergency, said: "The last thing anyone recovering from surgery or illness needs is the health secretary on a permanent loop like some pro-privatisation big brother.
"Perhaps this is some cynical government ruse to speed up discharge of patients by driving people out of the wards as they try and escape the permanent misery of an Andrew Lansley TV message."
The former Labour health secretary Alan Milburn joked that Mr Lansley's hospital appearance was his "secret weapon" to cut hospital waiting lists.
"He wants to prevent people getting into hospital - what a deterrent - and he wants to get them out quickly - what an incentive," he told the BBC's Daily Politics.
He said he had not appeared on the screens, although it is believed that a successor of his - Andy Burnham - did appear on the screens until Labour lost power at the 2010 election.
Patients in 50,000 hospital beds across England see Mr Lansley - although his face is not shown to those in accident and emergency or intense care wards.
It appears as part of a looped video repeated every three to five minutes as part of a bedside entertainment system of TV channels, the internet and films.
Patients pay between £2.50 for a couple of hours to £5 per day for the services - but Mr Lansley's message is free.
Mr Lansley told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was useful as he wanted people to realise "we want them to have as comfortable and as high quality a stay as possible", to thank staff and give feedback.
"They only have to see me once," he said.
"They can also turn on the radio and get radio for free."
But he also sees the funny side.
"It can be even worse - one constituent told me their baby's first experience of life was to see me on a monitor, which he found rather unnerving. He wasn't sure about the baby."
A spokeswoman for Hospedia, which provides the service, says Mr Lansley's message could easily be removed.
"If Mr Lansley asked for the video to be removed, we would of course accede to his request," she said.
"We continually monitor patient satisfaction levels, we have received no complaints about Mr Lansley."
The company, not the government, paid for his message to be recorded, she added.