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Health trust mobiles hit by poor signals

PUBLISHED: 07:47 03 June 2009 | UPDATED: 09:54 06 July 2010

A health trust which had to end its mobile phone contract because nurses working in rural areas could not get a signal was forced to pay hundreds of pounds in cancellation fees.

A health trust which had to end its mobile phone contract because nurses working in rural areas could not get a signal was forced to pay hundreds of pounds in cancellation fees.

But after months of wrangling, the mobile phone provider has now waived the bill after the EDP stepped in.

NHS Yarmouth and Waveney changed its mobile phone provider last year to T-Mobile, but found that district nurses and health visitors had trouble making calls from patients' homes because there was no signal in some areas. It sparked concerns about staff safety and in February the community services contract, covering 360 phones, was cancelled. Since then the primary care trust has been trying to get back its termination fee.

Amanda Cousins, chief operating officer with NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Community Services, said they had paid an early termination charge of £628.

She said the decision to change the mobile phone provider used by the PCT's community teams was taken following concerns over poor network coverage raised by patients and clinical staff, and that the new phone contract was much better.

She said: “The safety of our patients and staff is vitally important. It is essential that patients can contact our clinical staff at all times, while our staff also need reliable phones, especially when working alone in isolated rural areas. Changing the provider has given us extra reassurance that our services are safe for everyone.”

At the trust's last board meeting, non-executive director Anna Lincoln said: “The money came out of the community services budget. The penalty for the termination of the contract was a contractual requirement and there is nothing further that can be done about it.”

But after the EDP contacted

T-Mobile, the company has now changed its mind about the charges.

A spokesman for the phone company said: “T-Mobile recognises that community services staff attached to NHS Yarmouth and Waveney have experienced coverage issues in some parts of rural East Anglia. We investigated this issue when it was first brought to our attention in November last year. Health visitors and district nurses travelling to patients' homes in rural areas expressed concerns about being able to remain in contact with support services. No temporary solution could be found and investment in additional masts could not be justified given the low population density in the locality.

“As a one-off gesture of goodwill, we have agreed to waive the charge levied for the early termination of 360 connections.”

A further 215 office-based staff at the trust's headquarters in Beccles are still using T-Mobile.

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