Hospital patients in Sheffield are being charged up to £10 a day to watch television – while inmates in Doncaster Prison pay just £1 a week.
Poorly people undergoing treatment at the Northern General, Hallamshire and Jessop Wing hospitals in Sheffield are charged £10 for a 24-hour ‘bundle’ of films, television channels, radio, internet and free outgoing telephone calls.
A cheaper £7.50 deal is available for 18 hours of viewing, while the cheapest package available costs £2.50 for two hours of television.
But at Doncaster Prison, and at jails around the country, prisoners are charged just £1 for an entire week’s worth of television, the Ministry of Justice confirmed. Although Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust does not make any money from the system, patients today described the situation as ‘outrageous’.
Hayley Sambrook, of Gleadless, said the charges were a ‘rip-off’, after she spent five days in the Northern General to have her gall bladder removed.
The 26-year-old, who was discharged on Tuesday, said: “My opinion is that it is wrong.
“I paid about £17.50 in total for a day and a half’s TV and it was poor, to be honest.
“I think it is a rip-off and, especially when you are in hospital, you can’t really do anything.
“I couldn’t move, so I had no other option but to pay to watch television.”
Tracey Zon, from Aston, whose 19-year-old son Ryan was treated in Leeds and Sheffield after suffering a heart attack on a football pitch, said: “The television was free at the Leeds General Infirmary but it was £20 for two days at the Northern General.
“It’s ridiculous having to fork out that kind of money when people are trying to recover.
Julie Longden, a fan of The Star on Facebook, wrote: “It’s disgusting.
“My husband was in hospital last year with terminal cancer and we must have spent £300 in the five weeks he was in before he died.”
Paul Timmins, who spent £80 during two weeks in hospital last year, added: “It’s outrageous. People don’t ask to be in hospital but they’re scammed for watching TV when they are.”
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust began its contract with external service provider Hospedia in 2002.
Chiefs said the trust is required to have a patient entertainment and communication system – but said charges would be an ‘important criteria’ when the Hospedia contract ends in four years.
Prime Minister David Cameron was asked to justify the cost of hospital television by Conservative MP Philip Davies, and said he too was unhappy with the situation.
Mr Cameron, whose disabled son Ivan died aged six in 2009, said: “As someone who has spent a lot of time in hospitals, I absolutely share his frustrations.”
Phil Brennan, director of estates at the Sheffield foundation trust, said patients could choose from different bundles of services.
He added: “We absolutely understand concerns about the cost of hospital bedside entertainment systems.
“Like all other NHS hospitals we are required by the Government to have a patient entertainment and communication system and this is provided by an external company.
“However, when the current contract for this service expires, the charges for using the system will be a very important criteria for us to consider in awarding the contract to any future supplier.”
Hospedia: ‘We have invested £190m in NHS services’
Hospedia said patients can choose between different bundle packages tailored to suit a broad range of preferences.
Its best value for money deal allows patients to have access to five TV channels, free radio and free outgoing calls for £1.50 a day for 30 days.
A spokesman added: “In 2000 the previous government set out its Patient Power programme to modernise bedside communications systems in hospitals without resorting to taxpayer funds.
“For private providers to meet the costs of installing bedside systems, typically between £1,200 and £1,500 each, and continued maintenance, the Government stated that higher rate inbound call charges alongside TV charges should comprise the price to patients.
“Hospedia has invested over £190m into NHS bedside systems and we have improved services considerably.
“We are continuously reviewing feedback from patients and our current price packages now receive an overwhelmingly positive response from patients.
“The only way to offer sustainable lower charges or free services for patients is through further integration of the systems into the NHS.”