A REDDITCH woman has started a petition after her husband was fined for an innocent mistake over dental charges.
Richard Armstrong has been landed with a fine for £100 on top of a dental bill of £59.10 from NHS Business Services Authority when he mistakenly ticked a box exempting him from paying charges when his circumstances had changed.
Richard’s problems started when he retired aged 65 on May 25 but did not immediately claim his pension.
As he suffers from ill health he and his wife Isabel, who is four years older, had been claiming pension credit since she had retired, aged 60, entitling them to free dental treatment.
“After Richard’s birthday we noticed the pension credit money stopped going into my account,” said Isabel.
“I contacted the pension people and they said as Richard had reached pensionable age and had to start claiming his pension, but he wanted to leave it a few months.”
In the intervening period he went for a dental check up and as usual, ticked the box entitling him to free treatment without giving it a thought.
However, as he was now retired, he was no longer entitled to receive the benefits of pension credit.
“He wasn’t trying to con anyone, it was an innocent mistake,” said Isabel. “But here we have the NHS giving itself the right to claim this money and they are picking on the most vulnerable members in society.”
The first time the couple realised something was wrong was a letter from NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) demanding £159.10 – or else they would resort to a debt recovery agency.
In the letter NHS BSA said: “The penalty charge is payable even if you made your claim by mistake.”
It added payment was due in 14 days or else further charges were liable.
A spokesperson for NHS BSA said: “We ask patients to contact us if they can show that they did not act wrongfully or with lack of care, or if there is an exceptional reason why they should not pay the penalty charge. In some circumstances, we can waive the penalty.”
Isabel’s petition accuses the NHS of deliberately penalising the young, sick and vulnerable. To sign it, copies can be found at Redditch Library.