96p compensation

A helpless pensioner who had to crawl to her garden and shout for help because her phone line wasn't working following a fall has spoken of her disgust after she was offered just 96p compensation from BT. 

Stricken Hetty Stokes badly fell on two occasions and had to desperately shout to neighbours because there was a fault with her telephone line.

And after spending three weeks in hospital with a fractured hip, the 88-year-old was stunned to be told by BT they would pay out a mere 96p following her ordeal. 

The phone giants claim the amount covered the "loss of service" over the two days in line with the company's policy of having three working days to first repair a fault.

But furious Hetty today/yesterday (Wed) branded the offer of compensation an 'insult'. 

She said: "It is disgusting to be offered this amount. 

"I was frightened when I couldn't call for help, and if it hadn't been for my neighbours, I may well not be here today.

"I have lost my confidence and it will take a long time to build it back up."

The retired pottery worker first complained about the problem on March 9. 

She fell the following night after tripping over a curtain as she tried to lock her back door - luckily managing to raise the alarm by crawling into her back garden to bang on a neighbour's fence.

Hetty, who lives alone in her bungalow in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., spent the night in the accident unit and returned home on March 11.

But two days later she was back in hospital after fracturing her hip and having to shout for help again.

The fault was finally fixed a week later on March 16.

Daughter Jean Cartlidge, 61, who is a retired social services employee, said: "What my mother has been through is an absolute disgrace.

"We rang BT on numerous occasions to tell them that the phone was off and that it left an elderly woman isolated in her house. How she survived this I don't know.

"It was very cold on the night that she was found on her hands and knees, and BT is lucky I am not planning a funeral.

"Since she came out of hospital she is not the same and is very afraid to be on her own in the house."

As a 'goodwill gesture', BT have offered two months' free line rental worth #21.50 but the the family say they have lodged a formal complaint.

A BT spokesman said: "We would like to apologise to Mrs Stokes for the fault on her line and are sorry we have been unable to come to an agreement on compensation.

"Mrs Stokes clearly suffered a very upsetting fall and we are very sorry that this stressful time was further exacerbated by being unable to use her care alarm.

"The fault was fixed as quickly as possible. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee a fault-free service on any phone line, and this account was not registered with us as a care line, and therefore we had not recommended Mrs Stokes to join our priority service.

"We have since added this service to her account."