As with many of the other trusts that have installed bedside TV and phone units, Leicester Royal Infirmary reports some initial opposition to the charges. But Anne MacGregor, the trust's public relations manager, says it is now well-received and the trust and Patientline help patients who cannot afford the service.

'There has been some criticism that those who can't afford it lose out but That is not how we work and It is not how Patientline works, ' she says. 'If somebody is unable to afford to buy their TV card then That is reported to the Patientline representative and they will negotiate with the patient to make some arrangements to have free TV.'

This can involve giving them smartcards donated by discharged patients who have not been able to use up all their credit or simply by giving the patient free access at agreed times.

The system has been in operation for around two years and she says the trust is pleased with the results.

'When patients come into the hospital, especially for a long period of time, they can watch programmes and their relatives can contact them. It is much more user-friendly, particularly for those who are bed-bound.'