Those unlucky enough to spend Easter in hospital also had the misfortune of paying a whopping 26p per minute if they wished to call their loved ones. Not unexpectedly the tabloids and broadsheets were up in arms last week as they bemoaned the 160 per cent increase in hospital call charges.

The Daily Star screamed of 'bed phone fury' as it told readers that Patientline, the biggest company providing TV and phone systems to patients, had increased its calls from 10p a minute.

The Daily Mail continued the indignation by quoting Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, who said the call charges were a 'tax on sickness'.

It also said Patientline had 'already been investigated by Ofcom over exorbitant charges for calls to patients - up to 49p a minute, more than the normal rate for a call to Australia'.

The Daily Mirror called the rise a 'sick call' and quoted 'furious patients' who had hit out at the cost of a phone call from their hospital bed. The article quoted the Patients Association and unions, saying the rise was respectively 'scandalous' and 'diabolical'.

The Daily Telegraph also hit out, telling readers that NHS patients were being 'ripped off' by the call price hikes.

As ever it is likely that NHS managers will have to find a cheaper solution to the ongoing problem of patient phone calls.

The Telegraph quoted NHS Confederation policy director Nigel Edwards, who said hospitals would be looking at the terms of their contracts with Patientline and assessing the rise in charges.