"Getting a sales pitch from Patient Line"

About: The Great Western Hospital

(as a relative),

My brothers wife felt that whilst my brother was laid in bed, even though he was very ill it would be good for him to have some sort of stimulus to relieve the tedium and boredom.

So we invested in a £10 card to insert in to the bottom of the built in TVs. Having inserted the card I waited as it suggested that I should select a fully bespoke programme schedule. There then appeared to be no way forward to enter the information, and at one point we feared that our £10 had not gone through and was lost.

I then decided to ring the green or blue attention button on the handset, and found myself speaking to a gentleman who said that he could operate the system from his end, and what programme of films etc would we like?

I explained that my brother would like just the normal channels such as BBC ones and ITV and he said that this was fine, but then enquired as to how long my brother would be in hospital, and I replied that I did not know because he was seriously ill then it would possibly be there for another month. He then went in to some sort of 'sales pitch' saying I can do you a deal for the next month for £45 pound, which will cover the complete stay of your brother, and this is a good deal.

I said that I was not interested and in any case did not have that sort of money on me, but he replied like a second hand dodgy car salesman, 'don't worry about that as we take credit or debit cards'. I was a bit annoyed at his sales pitch, and said that I had neither as they were against my religion.

He seemed disappointed at this response, and then said that that my brothers Patient Line was now activated, and that £10 lasted a full 24 hours.

How lovely it would be to return to the day's of Swindon's Princess Margaret’s, where one was able to bring in portable TVs and radios to have then electrically PAT tested prior to being able to use them, instead of the expensive 'take it or leave it' that is now the norm at the GWH. As a reply to this story if I indeed am lucky enough to receive one, I expect it to be along the lines of an excuse about 'Elf and Safety'.

The last thing that I needed when my brother was seriously ill was the plea bargaining of what to all intents and purposes is a salesman on the other end of the line.

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Responses

Response from Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you for your further feedback on your experience – it is clear that there are a number of concerns you have which are documented in your complaint to us and in your previous postings. In addition to the full investigation into your original complaint that is underway, we would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to go through all of your concerns. I would encourage you to speak to our PALS Team by calling: 01793 605190 and they would be happy to arrange a time to meet with the relevant lead for this area.

On the latest issue concerning Patient Line we have shared your feedback with the company who provide and manage the service so they are aware of the concerns you have about ‘pushy salesmen’. The use of TV and telephones is something provided by Patient Line to make the stay in hospital more comfortable and this is their response to your feedback:

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Response from Patient Line:

“Thank you for sending this through. I’m sorry to hear that the individual commenting was unhappy with the service he was provided by our Customer Care Team. Our intention is not to provide a sales pitch, as the commenter seems concerned about, but to ensure patients and visitors have as much information as possible regarding the options available.

“We have previously received complaints from patients who were not aware of the longer stay packages available, or were unaware of the best options to suit their anticipated length of stay. To avoid users missing out on the best value deals, our staff ask how long the patient is expecting to be in hospital and advise accordingly. Our aim is to provide excellent customer service by providing the patient/visitor with the information for them to make an informed decision about the most suitable package, and I am sorry that in this case, this approach was felt to be intrusive.

“I understand that the commenter was also unhappy with the fact that the operator offered to take payment by credit or debit card. Whilst I can appreciate that it was felt that this offer was part of a sales pitch, we know that approximately half of our purchases are made using a credit/debit card, and were simply offering this as an option. I’m sorry that this came across badly in this particular instance, especially in light of the commenter stating that such cards are against his religion, and I can assure you that no offence was intended. “

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I do hope you are able to take up the opportunity to meet with a member of staff so that you can go through all of your issues in more detail.

Update posted by sovietski (a relative)

Dear Patient Line,

Thank you for taking the trouble to respond to my unhappy concerns about the service provided by your customer care team, however I notice that you only choose to do so for selected areas that I had mentioned, with others being ignored completely.

Even though I am still within the grieving period for my brother, with the funeral scheduled to take place on the 13th of this month, I considered that I would be failing in my duty to others that may find themselves in a similar position not to make a suitable counter reply. I do so hope that Patient Opinion will not edit out all the points that I am making however as I feel does need to be said, as It is not only the service provided by the 'customer care team' but the service itself that I object to for some of the following reasons:

I still find the service being offered as being a highly expensive and unnecessary one. Furthermore the last thing that terminally ill patients needing to worry about is the ability of their relatives at a time of concern to be able to pay these high costs.

I also mentioned that the previously Princess Margaret NHS built hospital which served Swindon so very well for so many years prior to the GWH being built to supposedly replace it, allowed an alternative by way of patients and relatives being able to bring portable TVs which were subsequently electrically PAT tested and then permitted to be used. You choose to conveniently ignore this important point that I made which I stand by resolutely.

I think it is outrageous that people who find themselves unlucky enough to be in hospital in the first place, with possibly no wages or very little income, have your service given as the only option available.

I only wish that more people would complain against these 'for profit' practices instead of being so typically English, whilst being part of the 'oh it's not so bad brigade'.

The last time that I looked over 80 people had viewed my original article, and this pleases me as I could just be making an impression.

Finally please answer all the comments that I made next time, and not cherry pick the selected ones. Thank you again.

Response from Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you for your latest response to the points made by Patient Line concerning your recent experience with them. The TV and phone service provided by Patient Line gives patients and visitors the choice as to whether or not they wish to access this type of service whilst under our care.

We fully recognise that people are not in hospital by choice but also recognise that to be able to provide a service of this type costs money. The price charged to use the system are set by Patient Line and not the Great Western Hospital and I have shared your latest response with them as feedback from your experience.

As a health service with limited funds the Trust has to make decisions on where money should be invested and if the Trust were to provide a free TV service (or provide PAT testing for personal equipment brought in by patients and visitors) then those costs would need to be met from other important aspects of front line patient care, something which we currently have no plans for.

Thank you again for sharing your feedback. As stated in our previous response, if you would like to discuss all of your concerns in person, a senior member of the Trust would be happy to meet with you at a time to suit you.