BT cut lifeline for my 86-year-old grandma with Parkinson's disease, says Lostock Hall woman

Sally Salthouse with her daughter Kiera.
Sally Salthouse with her daughter Kiera.

A Lostock Hall woman has expressed her frustration after her 86-year-old nanna with Parkinson's disease was cut off from emergency support for more than a week.

Sally Salthouse said her grandma Margaret Crossthwaite, who is vulnerable to falling, has arthritis and is a former bowel cancer patient, was left without access to her phone and lifeline device for 11 days last month.

This is because telecommunication company BT failed to carry out a requested service, according to Sally, a 40-year-old health and social care tutor.

A lifeline device allows people to talk to a help team in a response centre if they or their loved one has an accident or emergency in the home. The device has been designed to offer help 24 hours a day and 365 days a year at the click of a button on a pendant or wristband worn by a vulnerable person. The response team communicate with them via speakers in the main lifeline unit.

Sally said: "I was livid. We were given apologies but issues kept happening and my grandma experienced a high level of anxiety.

"If she didn't have anyone to fight her corner, I don't know what she'd have done. If you're elderly or disabled in that situation, then there's no means for help.

"On BT's website it says it can help people with disabilities but sometimes it's not that simple. I'm appalled that in this day and age there's not a simple way to send out an engineer to an elderly, vulnerable person."

Margaret, who lives independently in her own home with support from family and home help, struggles to reach her phone because she has mobility issues, Sally added. She also struggles with handset devices as her hands shake due to Parkinson's.

Her phone was fitted to the only connection box/socket in the house, which was in the hallway. This is called a master socket and feeds any extension boxe.

BT had therefore agreed to fit a second connection box for her phone in the lounge so that Margaret could reach it more easily from any room in the house when it rang.

But an engineer missed three appointments, an incorrect job booking was made and an operator also failed to book a call-out, according to Sally.

When an engineer first visited, he used the existing master socket in the hallway to run an extension wire to the lounge where he fitted a second connection box. He also moved the phone and the lifeline speaker into the lounge.

But two days later Sally said she tested a new phone in the master socket and found it did not have any connection or dial tone. She also tested the new phone in the socket in the lounge but this time heard a dial tone demonstrating no issue with the phone.

When she reported the issue to BT, they sent out an engineer to test the outside telephone line and reported no fault. But Sally said she believes the fault was inside the property.

A BT spokesperson said: “We’re really sorry for the interruption to Ms Crossthwaite’s landline service and for any distress caused.

"As soon as the fault was reported to us, we arranged an engineer visit. Unfortunately, the customer wasn’t able to give us access to her property on two occasions which delayed the reconnection slightly.

"We’ve compensated Ms Crossthwaite for the time she was without her service.”

But in a complaint letter to BT, Sally said she asked the engineer not to attend the property because he had been booked for both the wrong day and job and this would cause Margaret anxiety as she was not expecting him.