WH Smith drops hospital prices after MP pressure

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WH Smith has agreed to bring prices at its outlets in hospitals in line with those on the high street following a meeting with Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff.

The retailer has been heavily criticised by Ms Sherriff for hiking the cost of some items at its shops in Dewsbury and District Hospital and Pinderfields Hospital.

In some cases, there was a 90 per cent difference between prices in its high street shops and those found in hospitals.

In her Reporter column in August, Ms Sherriff said she found the practice “outrageous” and said that “A bottle of water costing £1 at WH Smiths in Leeds city centre is marked at £1.79 at Pinderfields.”

This is a claim that is disputed by the shop, who say that water was £1.49 at Pinderfields at the time, and that the high street price was subject to a promotional offer.

However, following a meeting between Ms Sherriff and WH Smith CEO Stephen Clarke, promotional offers on stationary in town centre outlets will be matched by those in hospitals.

A monitoring system to ensure that food and drink prices do not exceed high street prices by more than two per cent will also be introduced.

Ms Sherriff said: “This is a welcome first step for NHS patients, visitors and staff, who were frankly being exploited to boost the bottom line of some of Britain’s biggest businesses while the government looks the other way. It’s appalling that ministers have refused to act, but I will be meeting other retailers soon and I hope they will follow this lead.

“Whether it’s higher prices in the shops or charging for car parks, those who use or work in our hospitals are paying an unfair price and it’s about time to change it.”

A spokesman for WH Smith said: “The vast majority of our products are the same price in both our Hospital and High Street stores. This includes all newspapers, magazines, books and stationery.

“For food and drinks, where prices may be different, they are very similar and often slightly cheaper in Hospitals reflecting the different sales mix and the resulting promotional approach which is designed to best deliver value to all of our customers, despite the different cost structures.

“Going forward, our High Street stationery promotions will always be available in our Hospital stores and we will continue to monitor average selling prices across all ranges to ensure they remain aligned.”