ELDERLY patients at two North-East hospitals are enjoying free bedside terrestrial television after a unique deal was struck between NHS bosses and a private company.

Currently the pay-TV company Hospedia maintain all bedside televisions at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, and the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

This includes keeping the bedside TVs clean and tidy.

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But after NHS hospital trust bosses approached Hospedia and suggested hospital cleaners included the TVs in their rounds the company offered to provide free access to the terrestrial channels one to five on bedside TVs used on four wards specifically for elderly patients.

New arrangeents agreed between North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and Hospedia come in effect immediately.

It means that Hospedia is now providing unlimited access to channels one to five to all patients on wards 41 and 42 at the University Hospital of North Tees and wards 2 and 9 at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Peter Mitchell, associate director of estates for the NHS trust said: "We have strict criteria for cleaning to prevent the spread of infection and it seems sensible for our highly trained domestic staff to be responsible for the whole bed area, including the terminal.

"When we put this suggestion to Hospedia they very kindly offered to provide free unlimited use of channels one to five for all patients on our elderly care wards."

Hospedia site operator Lesley Smedley said: "We're delighted to offer, in exchange for the cleaning service, free unlimited use of the five main channels to patients in the trust's elderly care wards. We sincerely hope this move will be welcome by patients, their families and staff. "

Normal charges for access to Hospedia's 20 channel bundle start from 2.50 for two hours.