Mum billed £20 after helpline call for baby
AMUM who phoned a Welsh NHS helpline for her poorly daughter said she was “shocked” to discover the call had cost her £20.
Carys Edwards, from Cardiff, rang NHS Direct Wales’ 0845 number from her mobile when her six-week-old daughter, Swyn, had a high temperature.
She said she received a bill of £20 for the call, which lasted 40 minutes.
Plaid Cymru’s health spokesman, Rhun ap Iorwerth, has now called for the Welsh Government to scrap the 0845 number for NHS Direct to stop people being billed excessively.
But in response, the Welsh Government says it is the mobile phone provider that adds these additional charges.
Ms Edwards, who lives in Grangetown, said: “I had a bit of a panic because Swyn had not been herself. I checked her temperature and it was quite high, so rather than going to the University Hospital of Wales straightaway I decided to call NHS Direct.
“I phoned from my mobile phone because like many others we don’t have a landline.
“I remember the phone call being quite useful and we were eventually referred to our GP, but I had a bit of a shock when I looked at my phone bill, which was £20 more than normal. I know that mobile phone calls often cost more than landline calls but this is unacceptably high.
“Because of the cost I’m unlikely to use NHS Direct again.”
NHS Direct Wales is available 24-7 across the country and offers healthcare information and advice to patients.
It also signposts people to the best NHS services for their condition to avoid potentially lengthy waits in GP surgeries and hospitals.
An alternative free 111 service is currently available in Swansea, Bridgend and Carmarthenshire and there are plans to extend it to other parts of Wales.
It offers advice on nonemergency healthcare, as well as a triage and a GP out-ofhours service.
Mr ap Iorwerth said: “It’s not right that people are being given extortionate bills for seeking medical advice.
“While the Labour Welsh Government encourages people to seek alternatives to GPs to reduce the burden on primary care services, it’s unacceptable that they are being charged so much for using NHS Direct, particularly as the free 111 service is not available everywhere.
“Charging people £20 for a phone call is disgraceful and it goes against the whole ethos of the NHS.”
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “Calls to the NHS Direct Wales cost 2p a minute. It is the mobile provider’s additional charges – set by them – which have led to the high cost of this particular call.
“Work is under way to introduce a national 111 line across Wales.”
> Carys Edwards with her daughter Swyn
> Rhun ap Iorwerth