A campaign has been launched to end “extortionate and prohibitive” charges to watch television in Inverness’ Raigmore hospital.
Patients pay up to £9.90 per day – or £24.90 for three days – for the ‘TV and Movies’ package.
Highland Conservative MSP Edward Mountain is pressing NHS Highland to find a more affordable option once the contract with Hospedia, the company responsible for providing bedside televisions at Raigmore, expires in June.
Mr Mountain is due to quiz the Scottish Government in Holyrood on the affordability for patients across Scotland of using televisions on January 10.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
He has also lodged a Scottish Parliament motion for a debate which calls “for all NHS boards to renegotiate bedside television contracts when they are next up for renewal to ensure the best possible value for money across Scotland.”
The MSP’s motion for fairer TV charges has already received cross-party backing from Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
His motion includes: “That the Parliament believes that charges for bedside televisions in hospitals must be proportionate and affordable for all patients.
“[It] considers that accessing bedside television in hospitals can be prohibitively expensive for long-stay patients.”
He told the Press and Journal that his campaign was to ensure the “best possible value for money for patients across Scotland”.
NHS Highland spokeswoman added: “We are exploring options which will allow us to come up with a package of bedside entertainment that will provide better value for our patients.”
David Alston, the health authority board chairman, in a letter to Mr Mountain, added: “The charge for using this system is a commercial decision for the company to make in line with supply and demand.
“Under the terms of the UK wide contract the company are only allowed to make a ‘reasonable’ profit which is defined as a two per cent above inflation.
“NHS Highland does not receive any income for the service offered. Our main reason for installing the service was to provide patients with a choice.”
In 2004, a contract was entered into between Patientline (now Hospedia) and the newly formed Highland Health Board.
The duration of this contract was for 15 years, terminating in 2019.
David Alston, NHS Highland’s chairman, said: “Under this agreement, Patientline would provide the significant financial investment required for installing entertainment units at each bedside within Raigmore.”
The original investment was £1.5million.
Mr Alston added: “At the time it was felt that this provided an additional service which some patients may value and therefore wish to subscribe to.
“It is worth noting that expenditure on Hospedia services is entirely at the choice of the patient and their friends or family.”