It's important that you and your child can keep in touch with friends and family or have access to information and things to keep you occupied without worrying about how much it's going to cost.
Top tips on saving money
- Mobile phone: If you have a mobile phone contract, is there a cheaper alternative available? It may be that you aren't using all of your free minutes and can change to a cheaper package where you have more texts or internet usage (you usually don't need to be at the end of your contract in order to do this)
- Contract or top-up: Work out how many texts and minutes you are using each month and consider switching from a top-up phone to a contract. You can call your mobile phone provider for free from your handset and talk through your options.
- Mobile insurance: Are you paying out for one or more mobile phone insurance policies? It may be that your phone, or your child’s phone, is already covered under your house insurance or through your bank account. For example, if you have a joint account it's possible that both of your mobiles are covered. It's also worth shopping around for any cheaper options if you do want the added security of phone insurance.
- Cheaper calls: Use the website saynoto0870 to find cheaper alternatives to 0845/0870 numbers if you're calling from a mobile or landline. Which? also has some money saving tips.
- Directory Enquiries: Calls to 118500/118404 aren't cheap, so as a free alternative, if you or your child struggles to read or hold a telephone directory, you could benefit from using the free 195 Directory Enquiries service instead. To apply call 0800 587 0195. You will then need to have your application countersigned by a health professional. Then all you will need to do is call 195 from any landline or mobile. Textphone users can call 0800 838 363.
- Search online: Don't forget that you can find most numbers by browsing online. You could also try the free online 192 service.
- Free 0800 numbers: Most mobile call plans now offer free calls to 0800 numbers (which are free to call from landlines), but it's worth checking first. You may be able to reduce the cost of calling these numbers by using 0800Buster. However, most numbers that start with 0808 80 are free to mobiles (and are often used by not-for-profit helplines).
- Wi-fi: If you have a monthly mobile phone contract, be careful not to go over your data allowance, as this can be very costly. Check if the hospital, café or other building has free wi-fi access to save you spending unnecessary money by going over your monthly plan.
Hospital telephones and TVs
Most hospitals use external companies to provide their telephone and television systems. Many of these can be expensive, but there may be ways that you can reduce the amount you spend.
Hospedia is used in over 150 hospitals in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The information in our top tips below is based on using one of its phones or televisions (radio is free). Each hospital sets its own prices and you will need to pay for any child over the age of 16 to use these services.
If the hospital your child is staying in uses a different system then it's worth finding out when you can make free calls and if you can save money in any other ways.
Top tips on saving money:
- If your child is in a children's ward, television will be free during the day (from 7pm you will be charged). If they are under 16 and not in a children’s ward, they can still access free television as long as a health professional can confirm they are 16 or under.
- If you have bought a film bundle (regardless of the age of the patient) then all outgoing calls are free. Otherwise calls to landlines are 10p a minute.
- If your child is over the age of 16 and not in a children's ward, you may be able to arrange for your telephone system to be billed at the children's rate, so do speak to a nurse about this.
- You may find that a package deal is cheaper than paying by the minute.
- Find out what special offers or promotions are available. For example, there may be free outgoing calls to landlines for a certain period of time regardless of what time of day it is or how old your child is.
- Use the Friends and Family service (rather than texting from a mobile phone) to send people the bedside phone number for free. You can send as many as you like.
- Although calls to your bedside do not cost you anything to receive, the caller will pay 50p per minute from a BT landline.
Updated July 2016, next review due 2017.