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Elderly isolated after BT phone lines down for 10 days

May 17, 2012 1:54 PM

Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Geoff Heathcock has sent a formal complaint to telecom giant, BT, after frail, elderly residents were without working phone lines and unable to summon emergency help for 10 days.

Some of the pensioners rely on Personal Emergency Response Systems worn around their necks which allow them to raise the alarm through the speaker on the phone without having to reach the receiver.

But phone lines were cut off around Cambridge's Mowbray Road when underground equipment was flooded. BT told customers they couldn't get authority from Cambridgeshire County Council to dig up the road for repairs.

Cambridge City Councillor, George Pippas (pictured) was unable to leave the guest house that he runs without paying someone to step in because the fire alarms are connected to the telephone lines.

If the alarms at the Aylesbray Lodge in Mowbray Road had been triggered, Cllr Pippas would not have been able to be automatically notified.

Eventually his business number was re-connected but calls were sent through to a residential customer and he received the calls intended for them. He finally got full service resumed after 14 days.

Now furious Cllr Heathcock who represents Queen Edith's ward, has sent a formal complaint to BT demanding an explanation.

He said: "There was an appalling lack of communication overall and nearly 10 days elapsed before a solution could be found."

Cllr Pippas said: "There were elderly people who have out of hours emergency call systems around their necks to summon help if they are ill. They clearly couldn't raise the alarm because the phone lines were dead. This left them on their own and isolated.

"I pay extra on my BT bills to have all my UK land line calls included in the price. But I had to use my mobile for all calls which has cost me e a fortune. I had no apology or compensation.

"I was getting calls for a local family and they were getting mine. They must have had a horrible time being inundated with inquiries for accommodation and prices and cold sales calls."

And Cllr Heathcock added that among the excuses given to customers by BT was flooding of underground boxes. They were told there was no-one at the county council who could authorise permission to dig up roads to make repairs.

"Customers were being contacted by mobile to tell them there was no news as to when they were going to get the phone line back," said Cllr Heathcock. "But of course not everyone has a mobile so some elderly were left isolated and confused.

"I have been in touch with the county council highways officers and they confirmed they had no contact with BT."