AN MP has branded a decision by BT to cut the phone line of a severely ill man as “shameful”.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery says he will have no hesitation in holding the telephone giant responsible if his constituent Thomas Hedley needlessly dies.
Mr Hedley lives alone and suffers from a severe form of epilepsy and as a result he must constantly wear sophisticated electronic devices which monitor if he suffers a fall or seizure.
In the event of an epileptic attack the monitoring devices send a message via his landline to the emergency services.
But the 55-year-old from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea has been told his line will be disconnected within a week if he does not find enough cash to cover the £223 he owes in arrears.
Mr Hedley, who can’t work due to the severity of his condition, relies on benefits and says he can only afford to pay off the amount he owes in two monthly instalments.
Mr Lavery said: “I think this is almost unbelievable that a big company like BT wants to cut off a man who relies on his phone line for medical reasons. Mr Hedley isn’t saying he doesn’t owe this money he is just saying he needs a little bit longer to pay it all off.
“I can only describe BT’s stance as corporate intransigence. I am extremely disappointed that they take the view that this case is one where they aren’t willing to let him pay it off.
“He is trying to pay it off having, like many people, had some difficult financial problems recently. A big company like BT should be able to put a payment plan in place for him. I have dealt with BT before on behalf of constituents and usually have a good relationship but on this occasion they won’t move.”
Mr Lavery feels so strongly on the issue that he is prepared to raise Mr Hedley’s case in the Commons. He said: “I’ll raise the issue on the floor of the House if I have to until I get some answers. Mr Hedley relies on this as a lifeline.”
Mr Hedley was diagnosed with epilepsy two years ago and had to leave his first floor sea view flat and move into ground floor accommodation as he couldn’t risk having a seizure while climbing stairs. At its most severe he once suffered four seizures in an hour.
A spokesperson for BT said: “We’ve done as much as possible for Mr Hedley because of his medical situation. The outstanding amount of £223 has been suspended for one month but it must be paid off in full just before that period ends.
“The case handler who has dealt with this has put clear notes on the account that the relevant person at Northumberland Care should be contacted prior to us disconnecting the line should no further payments be made.”
A big company like BT should be able to put a payment plan in place for him