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back to article Patientline looks for debt help

Patientline, which provides telephone and TV services to patients in UK hospitals, is looking for ways to ease the burden of its £80m debt pile. Given the current credit crisis in world markets, this may prove difficult. Patientline today released an Interim Management Statement for the period from 1 April 2007 to 17 August …

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Colour me surprised...

..that, with their high prices and shoddy equipment, Patientline isn't immensely profitable.

I was in Oxford hospitals for two months during autumn 2004 and again briefly in mid-2005. I was distinctly underwhelmed with the Patientline service:

- the TV picture was of such low quality that it was unwatchable during the day: not very bright, low contrast and blurred. I've seen much better picture quality in the USA.

- the choice of channels was small and entirely advert-ridden. No BBC channels were available.

- the only advertised price was 10p/min for outgoing calls. I coundn't find a full list of costs anywhere.

- this was further ramped up by the policy of only allowing a patient to pay by using a special charge card, which was only sold in multiples of a fiver. There was no way of claiming back unspent value. All you could do was to give the card to the next victim.

- we didn't know about the 49p/min incoming call cost until my sister rang me. This charge was NOT advertised in advance, so it came as a most unwelcome surprise.

- the hospital coverage in Oxford is fairly minimal: the John Radcliffe had it, but the John Radcliffe Infirmary and the Nuffield Orthopaedic unit did not.

In short, I thought Patientline was ripping off a captive audience and, in consequence, used its services as little as possible. Fortunately visitors kept giving me books.

That Patientline should be in trouble smacks of gross incompetence at best. It serves them right for being a bunch of grasping b******s.

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Take your mobile instead.....

I've found it cheaper this week to buy a Tesco Mobile (£22) for my nan (who's going in to hospital at the end of the month than) who's going in for a week than it would be for me to call her on Patient line.

Stupid but true - if your hospital will allow their use then it's definitely the way forward

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Anonymous Coward

These Grasping PFI Bandits should be allowed to go to the wall

PFI - (Private Finance Initiative) is a busted flush. This is one of the worst as it prays upon a captive audience - the poor patient and his/her worried relatives.

Incoming calls don't ring long enough for the patient to answer unless they have a visitor as the staff invariably place the screen/handset out of the in-bed patients reach.

Stuff the Patientline rip-off. Take a pre-paided mobile into hospital restrict your incoming calls to a specific 1 hour a day. Your battery life won't last long if you leave it on 24/7

The response to any jobsworth who says mobile phones can't be used because it interferes with the equipment is to reply that if the equipment is sensitive to electromagnetic interference then the equipment is unfit for purpose and inherently dangerous. The exception is diagnostic x-ray equipment which is so powerful it is normally used in shielded rooms where you won't get a mobile service signal anyway.

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Excuse me...

A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

But seriously, it's a crying shame.

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Silver badge

Aw diddums

Allowed to go to the wall? They should be pushed against the wall and pi$$ed on. They have the audacity to blame adverse publicity of their price rises for their problems and not the price rises themselves which generated the publicity. How laughable.

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Anonymous Coward

Monopoly

Surely there should be a government investigation, aren't these guys in a monopoly position?

There is no competition and hospitals routinely have signs indicating that mobile phones should not be used; most patients don't want to upset the staff looking after them.

Someone needs to investigate the business case of setting up a hospital IP network and using LCD screens with a built-in IPTV/SIP capability. Unfortunately, based on Patientline's failure, it's unlikely any investors will be interested so there seems no inclination to even investigate a business case :(

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Doomed!

49p per minute for incoming calls? I believe the jargon file sums this up best: "deserves to lose"

Pure profiteering at the expense of a captive audience.

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Helped?

Rather than being helped out of their self created hole, the management should be tarred and feathered, placed in a "greedy shits Big brother" house (a closed down hospital ward would do nicely) where ex-patients could vote each week on which one is to be fed to a herd of starving wild pigs. That'll learn 'em.

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Anonymous Coward

Lets Hope They Go Bust...

... Serves the greedy twats right for fleecing people who by no fault of their own end up in hospital, some weeks at a time!!

My dad was fighting terminal cancer for 2 years and was in and out of hospital for chemo (2 days at a time) then when it started getting the better of him he was in 2 weeks at a time. Not only did it cost him £3.50 A DAY for TV which was shit beyond belief, but it also cost us 49p/min to ring him, we were getting phone bills reading god knows how much just so we could check he was OK.

Its a disgrace, yep OK so patientline need to make money for running costs etc but not make huge profits by fleecing the ill. To call out it should be the same as a BT line, 3p/min and to call in it should not be much more maybe 10p/min max. TV channels should be high quality and at least ALL the freeview channels, and the internet service what a F.CKING joke!!!!!!!

Hopefully someone will by those robbers out and provide a decent, affordable service. Enough money to cover costs and make a little profit on the side not to the extent they do with their excessive charges.

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Anonymous Coward

It just sucks

Having spent 3 months stuck in Hospital for crushing my arm and losing a hand, the sheer delights of having a bed side TV were a godsend when I first arrived and awoke from a drug induced morphine laced party.

However this like everybody else has commented was short lived, the TV channels were acceptable to start with, Bravo and UK TV gold and a few others, but then patientline turned them off, did the price go down, oh no it stayed at it's rip off £3.50 a day. I called the Patientline call centre and was told that more channels would be added soon, were they hell.

The internet, how the hell can they promote 'Internet Access' at your bedside when the crappy terminals run on Windows CE? The default homepage is Yahoo!co!uk! which takes 1min 15sec to load. Ebay was banned at Addenbrookes for being Unsuitable. To by pass the net filter you needed to search via google and click a Sponcered ebay link.

If anybody has had the pleasure of waiting for a box to reboot, this takes 25mins of dull Windows CE fun.

There's no competition, the nurses love and hate it. They love as it shuts the patients up and hate it as the patients call them first if the crappy thing doesn't work.

Luckily addenbrookes have WiFi in the Food Court and public access PC's near the entrance. The nurses, well D4 now L5 were pretty happy for me to use my mobile. After all they all carry them about.

The utter bullshit that Patient Line say that the telephones are designed for a ward envirnment is tosh. It maybe a sealed unit so easily cleaned but my mobile is my mobile and can be put on silent if needed.

After saying all that and as much as I hate Patientline, i'd be bored without it.

Lukily last time I was in, my old friend activated it for me and when asked how old he was he answered honestly and said 66, hey ho cheaper TV.

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£35 an hour?

To call a patient. And then they wonder why no-one is using the service. I think the board have no idea how a business works. I wonder if you can hack the console to allow skype calls...

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Internet?? Ha!

I spent 5 months in Bristol Frenchay hospital in 2006 and wrestled, (often in vain), with the unbelievably appalling internet setup provided by Patientline.

The sceen was fuzzy and hard to see, the "keyboard" would disgrace a Sinclair ZX81 and the thumb controller mouse replacement was a joke.

At 3.5p/min it was a complete ripoff, taking ages to browse any site and frequently crashing for no apparent reason.

The final straw was the internet filtering system in use, which, to my amazement, disallowed access to medical equipment sites!!!

The company rep agreed that the service was appalling and the subject of repeated complaints by anyone who used it.

One minor point about incoming phone costs:- international calls don't seem to be subject to the astronomical 49p/min fee, just the standard rate from the US or whereever. So it can be cheaper to call a friend overseas and get THEM to make enquiries.

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Who is pissing the money away?

59p a minute per call (all sums taken into account)... If BT charged these sort of rates, ofcom would cut their nut sack off (due to the general public firebombing ofcom offices).

If BT can make a profit, how come patientline cannot, despite a call cost per minute equivalent to calling God from the Vatican?

Then agan, thinking about it, the hospital has a captive audience for their services... and so that merits a finders fee... So, 80% goes to the hospital, 20% to ofcom, everyone gets a company-financed Audi A8...

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Title

When I gave birth I was very ill and our baby was kept in special care for 2 weeks. My husband was only allowed to visit between 1 and 4. SO he spent most of the rest of the time phoning to check how we were going. there was no warning of the 49p per minute charge so when we got our phone bill we were horrified.

I was bed bound and unable to go outside to use a mobile or find a BT payphone, and he was not allowed to visit. we were forced into using their terrible service.

The cashed in on the most terrifying 2 weeks of our lives - and i hope they go bust. they are parasites that feed off the vulnerable and they should not be allowed in our hospitals to take advantage of us.

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Anonymous Coward

Patientline Rippoff

Let Patientline sink. To my mind it was only a badly thought out business to rip off the poor and unfortunate patients who were a captive potential clientèle. However as it seem to have backfired especially because mobile phones are being used - sometimes "under the sheets" so as to speak.

Let the patients be open to use other options - Mobile phones, Laptop Skype etc whom all can be economically viable without extortionate fees.

Patienline will surely die - the sooner the better - lessons learnt.

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Anonymous Coward

Use a mobile

"There is no competition and hospitals routinely have signs indicating that mobile phones should not be used; most patients don't want to upset the staff looking after them."

If you're a patient no one actually has 'the power' to stop you using one - just say no - staff can only ask you to leave if you're a visitor. Process for booting out a patient is more complicated and refusal to hang up a mobile wouldn't cut it, so long as you are polite to the staff.

Even in the NHS with some seriously old equip you aren't going to interfere with any equipment. NHS staff routinely use mobiles, pagers various wireless devices in hospitals and have done for years - even in ICU.

Main reason for ban historically has been the inconvience/annoyance caused to other patients by inconsiderate mobile phone users.

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Anonymous Coward

PatientLine

It's a shame hospitals have such a bad attitude to mobile use.

I remember waiting for an x-ray and a lady was on her phone. No wonder some NHS are assaulted - the cleaner seriously deserved a punch! Even I thought about getting up and telling her to f**k off!

What about getting a old pager (ok I know BT Easyreach are no more ...) and if the patient isn't TOO ill looking for bt payphone to return the call? Or nip to the toilet and use the mobile there?

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Don't just let them die...

Nationalise them. With no outlay. Seriously. Then make it not-for-profit, as it should be.

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Don't laugh - we'll be paying for this

It's very unlikely the government will let this go to the wall, it's too politically embarrassing (free markets don't don't fail, do they?) and a big fat bail out from the taxpayer seems inevitable. The fall-out from having phones and telly's removed from the bed of sick patients would make the NHS look worse than ever and we all know there's nothing profiteers like better than paying subsidised by the public.

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Anonymous Coward

Title

These morons should have their debts extracted from them in blood. Of course, what will actually happen is that they will be bought out, or "rescued" by the tax payer and all be rich.

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Silver badge

Parasites

Having just had an elderly relative spend some time in our local NHS hospital (who, incidentally, tried to kill her by giving her the treatment intended for the woman in the bed next to her), I can only describe the Patientline service as an expensive rip-off and nothing more than shocking exploitation of the sick and their relatives who wish to keep in touch.

Personally I hope Patientline goes down BIG TIME and its directors all rot in hell.

If the ex Gestapo operatives who run the hospital parking racket go the same way it would be the icing on the cake.

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Anonymous Coward

stop whining!!

Why in this country do we whine at everything that costs us money? I used to work for the company, I left of my own accord, and yes the incoming calls are too expensive. The TV at £2.90 per day is less than renting one dvd from your local blockbuster, and outgoing calls are 10p per minute, the same as a payphone. Would you all prefer going back to wheel around payphones ( which you be lucky to get your hands on ) waiting for someone to finish using it first. And trying to watch an old 20inch tv with gardners world on it shared with 6-12 other patients???? The costs invlolved are all explained when you call into a patient, and if you dont like them then bloody well hang up and call the nurses station like you had to do in `the good old days`. For gods sake get a grip.!!!!

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