The firm, Hospedia, who manages the phone lines at 130 hospitals across the UK, will not remove the 13p a minute call charge to ring bedside telephones in hospital wards.
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Hospedia refuses to waive the charges amid the pandemic even though four of Britain’s biggest mobile phone companies have already removed the fees and will refund anyone who has been charged since March 1.
With many worried family members banned from visiting relatives to stop the spread of deadly Covid-19, patients are increasingly reliant on telephone calls to speak to their loved ones.
For some patients who do not have or are unable to use a mobile phone, a bedside phone provided by Hospedia is their only means of communication.
Hospedia has installed premium rate phone lines at 130 NHS sites across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – affecting thousands of coronavirus patients across the UK.
Calls made by patients to both landlines and mobiles are free – but the company charges 13p per minute for incoming calls.
Mobile phone companies were charging extra to call the premium lines but this has been waived in light of the coronavirus crisis.
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PHONE BILLS TO FAMILIES
Peter Weddell, 52, from Westcliffe-on-Sea, lost his mum on April 6. She spent two weeks in Basildon Hospital where he was unable to visit her, so he rang her a few times each day.
After receiving a phone bill for more than £100 for the calls he welcomed the fee waive from phone networks, but blasted Hospedia for keeping their charges.
He told The Sun: “You can’t see your family in person so of course you want to talk to them as much as you possibly can, its a disgrace that people would try to profit from that. And it all adds up and some people mightn’t be able to afford those calls.
“The phone networks have done the right thing, why not Hospedia as well.”
He added: “I’m glad the networks have cancelled the charge, it was outrageous to charge 60p a minute to ring a hospital.”
MOBILE FIRMS' FEE WAIVER
The first network to announce the move was O2, which said customers would now only have to pay Hospedia’s call costs.
O2 said: “We’ve removed all our charges for this service.
“We’ll also credit any charges back to anyone that has used this service since the start of the pandemic.”
Hospedia has previously come under fire for charging patients a staggering £9 per day to watch TV while in hospital.
The British firm, which turned a £2million profit last year, is used by almost 100,000 patients.
The company also provides WiFi to hospitals, which patients also have to pay for.
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While more technically-minded patients can use their phones and data packages to stream TV to their mobile phone, older patients beside them face a charge of up to £24.90 for just three days of limited content from Hospedia.
Neil O’Brien, Tory MP for Harborough said: “It would be great if given the current coronavirus crisis Hospedia waived this charge.
“Now the networks have waived their charges – and that was the right thing to do – I hope Hospedia will follow suit.
The Sun Says
IT is sickening that a grasping phone firm will profit from your final farewell call to a relative dying from coronavirus in hospital.
Hospedia, which also charges patients £9 a day to watch TV, won’t drop their 13p-a-minute fee to ring a bedside phone even after mobile firms scrapped theirs.
It should NEVER be possible to fleece patients or relatives, let alone during this terrible global crisis.
Have a heart, Hospedia. Axe this today.
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