Cardiff University student charged for seeking advice on Coronavirus

She recently returned from Milan

A Cardiff University student has been charged £10 by her service provider, after she called the NHS helpline number for advice on Coronavirus.

Vittoria, whose last name will remain anonymous, called NHS Direct Wales seeking advice on Coronavirus, as she had just returned from Milan in Italy.

After realising she had mild symptoms, Vittoria decided to phone the helpline twice on her return to Cardiff. Whilst on the phone to NHS Direct Wales, Vittoria’s phonemail was cut off because she ran out of credit.

Vittoria told The Cardiff Tab she “honestly didn’t expect to pay” and as a university student, “wasn’t too happy with having to top up [her] credit” and that she believed the service would be “free of charge, as it is the NHS and we are facing a highly infective virus.”

She went on to say: “The first phone call lasted about 15 minutes, where I was on hold for 10 minutes. When the nurse answered the phone, the call lasted about 5 minutes before the line was cut because I had spent the first £5.”

However, Vittoria said the nurse had called her back so “didn’t have to pay that time” and “the nurse told [her] and [her] housemates to wait for another call from them” to know what to do next. Having waited four to five hours, Vittoria said she “decided to try and call them again to see if they had any information” and was “on hold for about 15 minutes and no one answered before the line cut” so had wasted another £5 credit top up.

Many campaigners have said that said there should be no charges for calling an NHS number. David Hickson, Fair Telecoms Campaigner, believes that removing the NHS premium rate is long overdue. He called it “disgraceful”, especially during a health scare such as Covid-19.

Luckily, Vittoria returned from Milan on 17th February and those returning after 19th February are the ones to be isolated.

The Welsh Government and NHS Wales are encouraging anyone who has returned from parts of northern Italy since the 19th February who may be experiencing any symptoms, however mild, to self-isolate and call NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 or 111 Wales, if available in their area.

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