Are Hospital Shop Prices a Rip-off?
Have you ever bought flowers in a hospital shop for a patient? Perhaps a get well card? Or a sandwich if you're feeling peckish while the doctor does his rounds? Well, if you thought your goods cost more than you expected, according to The Times this morning (26th August) you were probably right.
The newspaper claims that Marks and Spencer and WH Smith, two of the UK's major retailers, charge customers as much as 50 per cent extra for the privilege of buying in their hospital shops instead of on the high street.
And some people don't like that, accusing the chains of exploiting what is, in effect, a captive market.
The Times investigation compared prices at ten hospitals in eight cities across Britain and found that it was more expensive to buy items including snacks, sandwiches, bottled water and stationery from WH Smith and Marks & Spencer hospital shops.
The retailers cite various factors for the discrepancy, including increased running costs because of higher rents and staff wages for longer opening hours.
We would love to tell you more, but stories in The Times are, naturally, subject to copyright so we can't reproduce them here. The feature is available online by clicking here, but please be aware that Times stories are behind a paywall. It's also in the printed edition of course.
We have asked Marks & Spencer and WH Smith to comment, and will update this blog when we hear from them.
In the meantime, if you are unfortunate enough to have to visit a hospital, perhaps take a packed lunch, some flowers, and a card or two. Not forgetting the grapes!
It seems The Times' campaign is having the desired effect as they are reporting today that the Department of Health has urged NHS trusts and retailers to ensure that patients and their families are not being "ripped off".
We will continue to update this story.