A FRIEND of the Sidcup pensioner who died after her emergency line call went unanswered says she has "lost faith" in the system.

Ann Brooks used to be neighbours with Barbara Baker when the pair lived in sheltered housing in Heron Crescent, Sidcup, before Mrs Baker moved to Meadows Court in Haven Close five years ago.

The 78-year-old died when she got no response after pressing the button on the Bexley Emergency Link Line (BELL) around her neck at just after 1.05am on April 6 last year.

Mrs Brooks, 66, also has a BELL pendant and is worried the system will get worse once it is outsourced to Wiltshire-based telecare company Medvivo on Thursday (August 1).

The move will mean calls go straight to the company’s headquarters in Chippenham rather than the Civic Centre in Bexleyheath.

Widow Mrs Brooks told News Shopper: "I know they have got to save money but they are cutting back on the wrong things.

"It is very upsetting because Barbara’s death is something that could have been avoided. Why have Bexley Council got to privatise it? Why can’t they carry on doing it themselves?

News Shopper:

Mrs Brooks was neighbours with Barbara Baker in Heron Crescent.

"I don’t trust the system after what I heard about Barbara. You have got to be able to put your trust in somebody and with a call like that not even being answered, you do lose faith."

The mother-of-three, who suffers from type two diabetes and lives alone in Blackthorn Grove, Bexleyheath, fondly remembers a friend she used to enjoy coffee mornings and games of darts with.

She said: "Barbara was one of the nicest people you could meet and nobody had a bad word to say about her. She was a really lovely person."

A Bexley Council spokeswoman defended the change, saying Medvivo will provide a "much improved service".

She said: "The decision to outsource was based on providing an enhanced service to our residents, not to save money. There were no savings attached to this business case.

"The telephone response will be based in Wiltshire and there will always be several people answering the phones.

An additional benefit is there will be nurses, doctors and emergency out-of-hours social care staff based in the same office - all available to provide advice if needed.

"Mrs Baker's death was very sad but was found to be from natural causes. The death was not "avoidable" and it was not as a result of the BELL alarm not being answered."

Are you a member of the Baker family? E-mail tim.macfarlan@london.newsquest.co.uk or call 01689 885702.