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18 March 2009
70p per minute to call sick NHS patients

Having a family member or close relative in hospital, especially when they are elderly and suffering from heart problems, can be stressful.

Wexham Park hospital staff are actively encouraging families, relatives and friends to call patients on bedside telephones but without telling them the call charges. The alternative is to telephone the ward on ordinary cheap local telephone numbers.

Wexham Park's 070785 numbers cost 37p per minute on BT, 49p per minute on Pipex and 70p a minute on the 3 mobile network.

A pensioner will be greatly distressed that their spouse has been hospitalised. Imagine the tremendous shock when they receive a £116.55 telephone bill for calling their spouse for 15 minutes a day for 3 weeks (BT rate). If the pensioner does not have a land line but only a mobile phone, the bill could cost an astronomical £220.50. The same calls made to a local telephone number will cost, at 5p per minute, just £15.75.

Pensioners on low incomes will greatly worry how they can pay and may go without food and heating to find the money.

Wexham Park's overpaid directors should end this disgusting rip-off scandal by disclosing the true cost of calling bedside telephone numbers. This hospital endorsed tax on the vulnerably, poor, elderly, sick and dying is wrong and unacceptable in the public's NHS.

Paul Janik
The Slough Party.