Papworth Hospital is providing my Mum with top quality medical care. However, since I live around 150 miles away it is not possible to easily visit her while in hospital so I need to keep in touch with her by telephone. Unfortunately, there is no mobile phone coverage in her ward so I am reliant on the bedside telephone service.
The bedside telephone service enables me to dial 07006 919 0009 and then enter an extension number to get directly through to Mum’s bedside phone without the need to disturb the nursing staff. The service has a warning message that calls from a mobile will be very expensive while calls from BT landlines are 20p per minute. I must admit I thought this was a bit expensive but just about acceptable.
On 7th Feb 2013 when I phoned the message told me that 0706 919 0009 is no longer in use and I should phone 0700 645 0009. I phoned the new number and this time the message told me that call charges were 50 per minute. At this rate I only spoke to my Mum very briefly !
So call charges have increased from 20p per minute to 50p per minute – a 150% increase. Extortionate and an absolute rip off.
Following the brief call to my Mum I sent an email to Papworth Hospital complaining about the increase. I also pointed out that their website was still quoting the old number and the old rates of 20p per minute.
While clearly aware of the situation I got the impression that prices are set by the external commercial organisation that provides the bedside phones and is outside of the control of the NHS. However, the NHS should be publicising the correct numbers and the correct rates.
In the telecoms industry it is accepted that the cost of voice calls is constantly going down. At certain times of day calls are now free due to competitive pressures from services such as Skype which for Skype to Skype is free at all times. My expectation would therefore be for call charges to go down and not to increase by 150%!
The aim of this pricing change must be to increase profits for the commercial organisation since they would not increase price to reduce profits! The company responsible for the bedside telephone service must perceive a captive market of patients with friends / relatives who want to talk to them and they have decided to maximise their revenues and profits by charging very high call rates. A pricing analyst in this commercial organisation has worked out that even though call volumes will drop due to the price increase the reduced volume of calls multiplied by the higher call rate will actually increase profits. Given the hospital environment this is the worst kind of cynical pricing strategy.
The risk of this pricing increase is if call volumes drop to almost nothing then profits drop to nothing.
While the NHS can put pressure on the commercial organisation the only way to hurt a commercial organisation badly is to impact their profits. Customer power has been shown to work with organisations like Starbucks and their tax situation.
It appears that the rates for patients to make outbound calls from their bedside phone are unchanged and are still 10p per minute. (Note this is according to the “Rates Card” that has been given to my Mum and I am awaiting Papworth hospital to confirm.)
As customers what we need to do is to reduce this commercial organisations revenues & profits for inbound calls to the bedside phones to almost nothing. If you are a family or friend of a patient at Papworth hospital do not make phone calls to the bedside phone unless you need to. If you do need to make a phone call ask the patient to phone you back. Ideally ask the patient to phone you so that you never need to call the bedside phone.
Obviously the patient is ill because they are in hospital so there will obviously need to be times when you phone the patient but be aware that it will be costing you 50p per minute and that the only way to get cheaper call rates is to reduce the commercial organisations revenues to almost nothing.