Two hospital calls cost patient £127

AN ESSEX hospital has sparked outrage after it emerged an epileptic patient was charged £2.59 per minute when he phoned to arrange an appointment. The “extortionate” rate emerged after Wayne Marshall ran up a £127 phone bill from just two calls to the outpatients department of Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

James Hore

AN ESSEX hospital has sparked outrage after it emerged an epileptic patient was charged £2.59 per minute when he phoned to arrange an appointment.

The “extortionate” rate emerged after Wayne Marshall ran up a £127 phone bill from just two calls to the outpatients department of Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

Mr Marshall, 30, had been trying to rearrange the time of an appointment and was placed on hold when he dialled the 0844 number.

The married father-of-two was left hanging on the telephone for 21 minutes when he made the first call at a price of £55, followed by a 28-minute wait the same day, costing him £72.

Last night the hospital said it only charged local rates of about five pence and could not understand why Mr Marshall had been hit with such a large amount.

Most Read

Mr Marshall, who is unable to work because of the severity of his epileptic fits, said he would refuse to pay the £127 racked up on March 14.

The Witham man also said he feared others, without itemised bills, may be unaware if they have suffered the same problem.

He said: “I eventually got through on the second call, explained that I needed to change my appointment time and that was it, but when I looked at my bill online, I was absolutely flabbergasted.

“I would have thought it would have been no more than a few quid, even with all the time I spent on hold.

“I have spoken to BT and they have told me that there is no mistake. This is especially bad for elderly people if they do not have an itemised bill as they may be in the dark about how much it is costing them to make these calls.”

He said he was now planning to speak to his local MP, Brooks Newmark, to see if he would support his case.

A spokeswoman for Mid Essex Hospitals Trust, which runs Broomfield, invited Mr Marshall to get in touch with them.

She said: “We have been on the 0844 number for over a year and it is charged at a “lo-call” rate and that is the same from wherever you call in the country.

“If Mr Marshall wants this to be looked into, he can contact the trust and discuss it and perhaps BT should look into this as well.

“We have not had any other comments or complaints since it was introduced.

“It is not premium rate, it is just a non-geographic number, I have no idea why this has happened but if he wants to come to us, we will see what we can do. I don't know if it is down to us or the phone provider.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter