THE MP for Leighton Hospital is advising patients to use their mobile phones instead of paying a whacking 160% increase for hospital phones.
Tory Stephen O'Brien, Shadow Minister for Health, whose Eddisbury constituency includes Leighton, says he hopes patients ignore guidelines banning the use of mobile phones on wards if they are to avoid paying up to 26p a minute to use the Crewe hospital's bedside phone network.
Mr O'Brien said: 'I am deeply concerned at these increased high charges to use the phone, whether you are a patient phoning out or a relative phoning in.
'I hope that my constituents are all going to use their mobile phones instead of having to pay these very high charges.'
His comments come after it was announced that Patientline, the private company which provides bed-side phones, is increasing its call rates from 10p to 26p a minute.
Mobile phones were initially banned in all hospitals over fears they could interfere with electrical equipment, but recent research has shown that the risk may be less than previously thought.
Mr O'Brien was joined by Liberal Democrat North West health spokesman John Pugh in condemning the hike in charges.
He said: 'The NHS seems to be needlessly adding to the cost of being ill for patients and their families without offering anything that looks like a satisfactory explanation.
'Safety fears about mobile phones interfering with medical technology appear in most wards to be groundless.'
A spokesman for Leighton Hospital, which has met with criticism for continuing to use the Patientline system, said: 'Feedback suggests patients welcome the convenience of a bedside system which allows them both to make and receive calls without having to ask nursing staff to make available a coin-operated machine.'
'We await guidance from the Department of Health regarding the use of mobile phones within hospital buildings.'