Thanks for reply. I tried changing passwords to the wrong one then the right one again. Seemed to verify but still same problem. As I have in installed account as a last resort and now cannot set it up again I think it is different issue.
When tying to verify account I get ‘cannot connect using SSL do you want to try without’. If I say yes it then comes back with ‘smtp.virginmedia.com is not responding. Check network connection and that you entered the correct information in the Outgoing Mail Server field’. All seems to pointing to outgoing server problem or config. It has worked fine for many years without changing these settings so confused why just stopped sending mail in last couple of days!
IIRC You have to make sure that any extra outgoing servers are completely deleted so that when you re-create the email account it uses the correct server details. It used to happen over and over to my husband's iPad, who knows why! I used to delete the email account, give the recalcitrant outgoing server a new name, THEN delete it, then recreate the new account (or something like that -- ravenstar68 explains it better in his post).
so after all the advice from here (good advice and explanations) following them ie:
1. Re entering passwords on smtp outgoing server.
2. Deleting account and smtp server.
3. Resetting my password under my virgin media profile (annoying because could remember it well!)
... nothing above solved the problem on my or my wife’s email account outgoing email issue.
So the solution .... just wait ...!! I have had this before for 12hours but never over 48hours. My ‘theory’ is something went wrong in the background with virginmedia’s server, but it was the weekend, possibly with more critical issues to resolve, but come Monday morning with a full workforce someone has noticed the issues and resolved it. Won’t ever know why or how but now working!
so my advice is if you’ve not changed anything and it just stops sending for no apparent reason then do nothing for 24hrs at least and see if it resolves itself.
many thanks to all the suggestions and all useful knowledge sharing.