This ls long but I make no apologies, it covers a vital subject and we need you to read it, please. As you all know I am classified as an invalid for various reasons. You also know that I am extremely fortunate to be in France and under the care of our brilliant Health Service
I was very shocked therefore to find that my good friend Roland Clarke, who is in a similar position in the UK, is experiencing some appalling treatment at the hands of BT.
Tell us about the story, Roland.
At the beginning of January we knew that we were moving house at the end of February, so we contacted BT [British Telecom – who provided our phone & internet] – to arrange the new service. On January 9th BT gave us an engineer appointment for February 17th, and for the next six weeks we received letters, emails and texts confirming the appointment and ensuring someone would be at home. But on February 17th the engineer failed to turn up. Next day we rang BT and their representative said the order had been wrongly entered as a new account, so a new date was fixed for April 10th.
However, BT took total responsibility for the error, and the rep said they would fast track the order so that we had the connection by the time we moved on February 27th. But that never happened, with the blame placed on BT Open Reach – the engineering department – who were supposedly still recovering from the winter storms. Then they claimed that as the home was brand new that the cables needed to be laid to the mains, even though it was on an established park with neighbours already connected, plus a BT junction box outside the home already. So despite the promised fast track, our new appointment remained as April 10th.
In the run-up to the appointment we received confirmation details, including instructions on being there, by letter, email, text and phone call. I even told the BT rep, who called to confirm, that the engineer better turn up this time or we would have to take action. Of course, the engineer failed to turn up and nobody rang to explain the non-appearance. When we rang we were told that the house needed to be connected to the exchange, although they were unclear where this work had to be done – but it would be done that day. Next day we were told that there was more work to be done at the exchange, but they had a resources problem that was affecting their ability to lay cabling. What cables? Why hasn’t the lack of cables caused our neighbours to lose their service?
Anyway, BT Open Reach now says the work will be done by April 17th at the exchange and we’ll be connected by the end of the week. We’ve given them an ultimatum that if the service is not connected by the end of the week, then we will be taking action.
And during all this prevarication and evasion time, BT has taken money for a bill charging us for non-existent services between March and April.
So let me get this straight? You paid them, they have your money and they won’t give you the service you’ve paid for. Is this usual?
It’s not meant to be usual or contractual, but they have taken the money from others in similar circumstances, and been reluctant to refund it. We’ve cancelled our direct debit so they can’t take more. We’re under contract on part of our service but BT has failed to deliver anything , so they are in breach in my mind. In theory BT cannot bill us for anything until they have connected our phone and internet. But we will see.
What benefits (apart from financial, I’m not that nosy) do you get due to your disability?
The benefit of being called a scrounger. I don’t pay for vehicle tax, although we have changed to a wheelchair accessible Kia Sedona, so have to get that registered under the disabled class before we can be refunded for road tax we’ve paid.
What about prescriptions? All my medication, dental work, glasses etc are subsidised because of my status (and very limited income on an invalidity pension).
Unlike health care in the USA and other countries, NHS services are free but I have to wait my turn, and for some services there is a long waiting list. It is also a postcode lottery with services better in some areas than others. Not all Health Trusts prescribe key MS drugs – for instance West Kent Trust wouldn’t Sativex, the cannabis spray that can help MS patients.
However, my West Kent NHS neurologist contacted the North Wales NHS promptly, so I have an appointment with one of their specialists on April 29th. For all the restrictions and cuts being forced on the NHS by the Coalition government, they have been reasonable if slow at times. They supply a wheelchair, and my medication is free – regardless of my age. However, because I am on Disability Living Allowance (DLA), I cannot use the ambulance service to the hospitals, except in an emergency.
The biggest concern, at the moment, is the threat of an imminent re-assessment for my DLA by the government. Many of the assessments have ignored long-term conditions like MS, and pronounced beneficiaries fit to work, so they lose their benefit. This has happened to terminally ill patients, in some cases just before they died. An army veteran, who lost his legs in Afghanistan, was refused benefit on the basis that they might grow back. True or apocryphal doesn’t matter, there are other cases and the re-assessments are extremely unpopular. If a wheelchair user can’t get to an appointment because the assessment centre is upstairs, why penalise the user? Because we are all scroungers.
I suppose you have a Disabled Parking disc? If you do you’ve got me beat because I don’t qualify for one but I do have a card saying I must be offered a chair if I have to wait longer than 10 minutes in a shop – I do love that one. I can also go through the “pregnant ladies” queue in the supermarket but at my age I tend not to.
Haven’t tried the pregnant queue and in supermarkets people frown at my wheelchair as if I’m getting in the way of their wild dash around the store. I have a Disabled Parking disc but have to renew it every two years – unlike the USA where a disc is for life… as is MS.
Sum it up for us, Roland. What improvements would you like to see in the NHS and general treatment of the long-term sick in the UK?
I want the Coalition Government to stop treating the disabled and long-term sick as scroungers and to stop demanding that we be re-assessed or discriminated against. They behave as though they want to remove us from the system, and we wish we would shut up or die. Why are we the drain on the economy, not the MPs and bankers? Many of us have worked all our lives, paid taxes and abided by the law. Some have even fought for their country and been affected in unimaginable ways. We’ve paid our dues and we are paying every day in how we have to live. We fight to live despite our disability, but why should we fight for our rights as well?
Thanks very much for all your concern Ailsa. I will keep you and your readers informed of what happens with BT.