Mum billed £20 af­ter helpline call for baby

Western Mail - - NEWS - Mark Smith Health cor­re­spon­dent mark.smith@waleson­line.co.uk

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

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