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Phones

'Get well soon' costs 49p per minute to NHS hospitals

It's cheaper for me to travel almost 200 miles on a bus and visit my dad in person than to make a one-hour conversation over Patientline's telephone service

Calling a loved one in a UK hospital? It's cheaper to call a mobile phone in Japan.

My father suffers from multiple sclerosis and is currently lying in an NHS hospital bed. He's miserable, as you might guess. If, like I did, you want to call a suffering family member in one of over 150 UK hospitals that use Patientline's bedside TV, Internet and phone service, it'll cost you 49p per minute from a BT land line at peak rate. That's more to call a bedside across town than it costs to call someone on the other side of the globe.

Paitentline's cheap rate is still 39p per minute. Is this obscene? Let's see.

At peak rate from a BT land line, it'll cost you 28p per minute to call a home in Australia. It'll only cost you 14p per minute to call Hong Kong, and just 12p per minute to call Japan.

Even if you call a mobile phone in Japan at peak rate, it'll cost you only 37p per minute -- 12p per minute less than a call to a nearby hospital.

In fact, it's cheaper for me to travel almost 200 miles on a bus and have a light lunch than to make a one-hour conversation over lunch at home.

Last year the BBC reported that Patientline raised its call prices significantly, by an eye-watering 160 per cent. And in November of last year The Guardian commented on the financial instability of the firm, citing operating losses of millions within just six months.

Patientline says higher call charges support lower TV charges, which more patients use. Maybe if call charges were lower more people would use them? 49 pence per minute to call my dad isn't exactly an enticing offer.