Imagine the scene: after being rushed into hospital barely conscious, when you come around the first thing you see is not a nurse, a doctor or a loved one. Staring down at you from a monitor directly above your bed is the Secretary of State for Health, with a serious expression on his face. Welcome to the world of Lansley TV.
Patients have reported the appearance of Andrew Lansley on bedside entertainment systems installed at NHS hospitals across the country. The Health Secretary appears on permanent loop every three or four minutes welcoming them to hospital and extolling the virtues of doctors and nurses.
The worst thing about it, they say, is that you have to register to turn him off. Under the system – now installed across about half the NHS – patients are charged more than £5 a day to access television, email and phone services. Until they switch the system on, patients are faced with a loop of promotional footage including Mr Lansley's "Welcome Message" – subtitled so they are unable to escape.
In some wards with multiple beds, the screens have the effect of a television showroom, with dozens of Lansleys staring down on the ill. While the screens can be turned around, some visitors have pointed out that this is difficult for the elderly and infirm.
One man who visited an elderly relative said: "It was eerie. Everywhere you looked there was Andrew Lansley. My mother-in-law had to keep topping up the machine just to escape him."
Hospital TV has been criticised for the high cost to patients. Last year it was reported that the cost of watching television for a 24-hour period had almost doubled from £2.90 to £5. The cost comes to £1.50 per day if you buy a 30-day package. If not you get Mr Lansley.
In his recorded statement, he says: "Hello, I'm Andrew Lansley the Health Secretary. I just want to take a few moments to say that your care while you're here in hospital really matters to me. I hope it's as good quality care as we can possibly make it and I do hope you'll join me in thanking all the staff who are looking after you while you're here."
He goes on to mention Hospedia, which provides the equipment, saying: "I hope it's part of making your stay as comfortable as we can possibly make it." A spokesman for the Health Secretary said he was merely copying a similar announcement that had been made by his predecessor Andy Burnham.
"Andrew thought he should do it because people were so bored of watching the video of Burnham," they joked. A spokesman for Hospedia said: "The Secretary of State for Health was indeed filmed for the patient entertainment systems. The video is included as part of a series of informational items, however once a patient registers with the system for free, the video is no longer displayed."
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