THE company responsible for charging people to watch television in Raigmore Hospital has responded to a petition to scrap or reduce the fees.
Hospedia has defended its system that charges patients up to £10 a day for the use of television, internet, radio and phones.
A spokesman said: "Hospedia appreciates that some people feel that it is unfair to have to pay for bedside entertainment services during a hospital stay.
"The government initiative that instigated the installation of personal bedside systems for patients was designed to ensure that the NHS did not have to divert funds away from patient care in order to provide these services."
Hospedia claims that it costs an average of £1.5 million to install these systems within a hospital. Hospedia originally provided the equipment, installation, maintenance and staffing for the media services with the understanding that there would be a charge to patients for their use.
In Raigmore Hospital there is a selection of payment bundles that people can choose from.
The spokesman added: "This is designed to offer a greater level of choice with regards to content and coverage of their predicted length of stay. Services available include radio, 25 TV channels, 70-plus movies and five Sky Sports channels. Our longer stay bundles are heavily discounted against the daily rate, which often appeal to care of elderly wards where patients stay, is often longer than other disciplined wards. For example, a 30-day bundle can work out as little as £1.99 per day."
He added: "I appreciate that, while we strive to appeal to the majority, there will always be some people who do not find the packages suit them or their stay."
There are some exemptions to the daily fees with TV channels one to five available for free from 8am until noon every day and unlimited free outgoing calls to UK landlines at all times with no purchase necessary.
Raigmore Hospital children’s ward receives free to air TV from 7am until 7pm every day with all wards receiving free radio broadcasting including the hospital’s very own radio station 24/7.
The service was previously provided by Patientline which allowed nurses to provide free television to those on a low income.
NHS Highland has promised to review the service when the current contract runs out in 2019.
Shelley Gill (31) started the petition following her grandmother Jan Ryan’s visit to hospital which cost the family more than £40 over a few days.
She hoped that the hospital would scrap the fees or seriously reduce them.
The petition now has 3329 supporters. She believes that 2019 is too long for people to wait with no guarantee that anything will change.
She said: "It is disgusting that families have to worry about whether their loved ones can watch their soaps in the evening while they are alone in hospital."
Dialysis patient Daniel Rennie also backs her petition. He has contacted local politicians.
He said: "We have tried to explain that low income families simply can’t afford this. My uncle has just been in for a knee replacement and told them to shove the TV as it was going to cost £9 a day.
"Unlike Patientline it is not offering a solution to those with low incomes such as an exception."
To sign the petition visit www.change.org/p/scottish-government-scrap-or-significantly-reduce-the-charge-for-bedside-tv-in-hospitals