Programme schedule

Programme schedule

There are tight Government deadlines for installing patient TVs and communication systems by every hospital bedside. Supplier Wandsworth Electrical says it is helping to meet the various challenges involved, such as the issue of charging patients.

A handful of firms are gearing up to the challenge of providing bedside TV and telephone systems at over 150,000 bedsides in major NHS hospitals before the end of 2004. So far just three companies have full licences, under the NHS Patient Power Initiative, to bid for contracts to supply, install and manage the systems at over 340 hospitals. Systems are in fact being supplied, installed and managed at no cost to trusts, and will be funded by patients paying for premium TV channels and to make and receive phone calls.

However, with the vast majority of hospitals still to choose a supplier, there is going to be a lot of activity over the next couple of years, and the capabilities of licence holders will be tested to the full if the deadline is to be met. Learning from the experiences of hospitals that are leading the way will be invaluable in ensuring the smooth running of projects.

Last year the 1186-bed University Hospital in Liverpool installed patient TV and telephone systems for virtually every patient. The contract was awarded to NHS Estates licence holder Wandsworth Electrical.

Wandsworth developed an overall method statement which was discussed, amended and agreed with the hospital’s estates management team. A detailed installation programme was written, taking into account the specific requirements of the medical staff to ensure that work that would fit in with medical requirements.

While it retains overall control and accountability for the life of the equipment it supplies and the service it offers, the Wandsworth approach to installation is one of partnership with acknowledged experts and specialists. Cable & Wireless, already the major supplier of wide area and local area networks to UK hospitals, was the ideal choice of partner to provide cabling services, says Wandsworth. The latest version of the latter’s Tele-call bedside terminals are effectively client PCs on a network. Offering potential for future diversification of their use and providing CAT5 cabling as standard at the outset means that the systems are ready and waiting to run new applications. EPR at the bedside is one possibility. As well as choosing a partner for cabling work, Wandsworth has opted to go to FM provider Sodexho for day-to-day maintenance of the service following installation.


All units are served from a single ‘nerve centre’. The bulk of the cabling work, from the communications room to the threshold of each ward, was achieved with minimal interruption to the working life of the hospital. However, even before this started, Wandsworth visited ward managers to explain what would be involved regarding installation within their wards; communication is the key to the successful installation of a major project like this.

In most cases the ‘last mile’, ie installing cabling from the ward door to the bedside and fixing the swivel arms and TV sets to the walls, was achieved by decanting individual bays of six beds at a time, minimising the number that were out of commission.


University Hospital worked with Wandsworth to produce patient guidelines that are easy to understand and Sodexho staff are trained to answer patient queries as they go about their day-to-day cleaning and maintenance work. Charges have been structured to allow for concessions for longer-term patients and pensioners, and smart card dispensers accept payment by cash and also make refunds when patients leave the hospital. Incoming calls are free to patients and they are also given an initial free call to tell people what their personal direct dial telephone number is. At University Hospital the daily charge to use the Tele-Call unit is set at L2.50 per day and L2.50 per day per premium movie. Outgoing calls are charged at BT payphone rates; incoming is free to patients and cost callers 50p per minute.

There has been negative publicity about charging for bedside telephones with patients and relatives questioning the level of charges. Wandsworth says that at Aintree this has been pre-empted by ensuring that charges are fair, and are seen to be fair, and that the equipment is high quality, reliable and easy to use.

Copyright Wilmington Publishing Ltd. Feb 2002

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