/ Health, Money

GPs – stop using expensive phone numbers

Man hanging up phone

GPs have been asked to stop using expensive numbers, but a quick check reveals many still are. Most of us have inclusive call plans that exclude certain numbers, so should GPs make more effort to switch?

If my circle of friends and family are anything to go by, we Brits will do almost anything to avoid a trip to the doctor.

So by the time we’re poorly enough to call for medical aid, chances are the type of number we have to call for an appointment will be the last thing on our minds. That is, until we receive the phone bill.

In December 2009, the Secretary of State for Health issued ‘Directions’ to NHS bodies regarding the phone numbers for users of health services to call. It expected GPs and other NHS bodies in England to stop using phone numbers that cost more than standard geographic numbers – starting 01 or 02. The final date for changes was 21 December 2010.

Expectations vs reality

It’s disappointing, then, that in a check of 100 GP surgeries across ten randomly selected English postcodes, eight still use 0844 numbers. OK, so it’s not exactly a statistically robust sample, but I can’t imagine my small-scale research has unearthed the only eight GPs to still use 0844.

But, in the interests of fairness, I will note one proviso. The Department of Health (DH) Directions didn’t impose a blanket ban. Instead it said GPs should take ‘all reasonable steps’ to stop using expensive numbers.

And it’s possible that contractual obligations with phone number providers may have stopped some GPs switching to less expensive numbers yet. But in these cases, GPs should offer a call-back option for patients on request.

And the DH directions didn’t ban 0844 specifically – it’s the call cost, not the code, that’s important. 0844 is sometimes cheaper (slightly) to call than 01 and 02 numbers, from some operators, at some times of day. But not always, particularly if you’re calling from a mobile, and certainly not if you have inclusive call minutes.

Calls not included

That’s my main gripe with GPs’ continued use of 0844. Mobile and landline operators alike are often keen for us to opt for inclusive call plans. They can help us manage our phone call spend, so many of us take up their offers.

But unlike 01 or 02 numbers (and sometimes 0845 and 0870), 0844 calls are never included in mobile or landline call plan inclusive minutes.

BT told us that two thirds of its customers have an inclusive calling plan. And anyone with a pay-monthly mobile contract (that’s more than half of UK mobile users) will have some inclusive minutes. Even with PAYG, there’s an increased trend for operators to offer top-up ‘incentives’ of inclusive texts and minutes.

I’m one of those who pay for inclusive anytime call minutes with both my landline and my mobile operator, but if I had to call an 0844 number I’d be charged for this on top. Fortunately, my GP uses a geographic number – but not everyone’s that lucky.

But perhaps I’m being ‘numberist’ and it’s not that big a deal, so let me know your thoughts. Does your GP still use 0844 – and more to the point, does it bother you?

Comments
Profile photo of DorothySharman
Member

Dear can’t say

Young man nothing is ever free in this world and unfortunately for you if you think so! The whole point that most people on this website are worried about are the OAPs who paid fortunes out of their wages for the NHS during the whole accepted working life of people who started working back in the 1920s onwards – and in return they have just a paltry pension to live on. Every penny counts of that pension and so – at a time in their lives where they are visiting their GPs regularly – this additonal expense of ringing them is pushing their means to the very limit (without the recession). At the other end of the scale you have the young mothers and disabled again on limited incomes – usually only on mobiles when it comes to communications – simply because they cannot afford the rental for a landline – and again these people are having to regularly call their GPs for their disabilities and young children and also can ill afford these prices.

Shame on you for voicing such rubbish. The NHS is quick to take our money from our wages and just as quick to hand fortunes over to management/GPs in the NHS but to have them then turn round and try to charge people at point of entry in such an underhand way is nothing short of disgusting.

Yes, if there is a shortage of money in the NHS introduce some sort of fee at the point of contact, but not these back door methods which only penalise the elderly and the very young – not people like yourself who because you enjoy Sky think others do too! You it is to be hoped are quite healthy and therefore make these statements from that point of view, the whole point of a discussion is to see all sides not just your own.

I fail to understand why a GP earning £100000 plus grants from their PCT then has to rip off people on the telephone.

Member
Adam M says:
17 May 2012

Dear Dot,

I completely hear you that this number is unfair. But that applies to everyone – old,young,rich,poor,abled and disabled. It cant be fair for others and unfair for some, surely your postively discriminating? Whether it is positive or negative, discrimination is discrimination!

And you add that the whole point of this discussion is to see all sides. But you say “Shame on you for voicing such rubbish” How can you hear all sides if you try and shame people for their opinion.
Also I have a disabled son, and I would not hesitate on calling an 0844 number, regardless of cost. Even if I had to pay £10 a call. The amount of treatment he has received since he was born, has run into the 10s of thousands. And has anyone asked me to pay more NI contributions? No – Has anyone asked me to pay for some of his care? No – Has he been treated any different since he has cost them this large sum of money? No. To save my childs life and to ensure he has a healthy future – I cant put a price on that.

I get that it is not the most ideal situation, but this isn’t an ideal world. If it was prescriptions would be free! But dont see a campaign to stop us paying these massive pharmaceutical companies money. And they make more money than any telecoms provider.

This problem will be sorted within the next 12 months, as they HAVE to change this. But wont we just find something else we’re not happy with?

Member
Eileen Gibson says:
20 May 2013

Hi I am one of the many people that have to use an 0844 number to ring my doctors. The centre used to have a local number which was covered by most providers as either free anytime or weekend calls, but that changed a good while ago. Last month I needed to call my surgery on quite a few occasions for appointments and results etc. When I checked my bill I had paid £1.99 for calls. This may not seem excessive but as we are retired every little bit extra we can save makes a difference. I think this isa disgrace, particularly when you see GP’s salarys!!

How can we make our voice heard in the right places to urge the surgery to go back to a local number?

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Eileen

You and others in your position may be interested to read the comment on the parallel conversation at https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/expensive-gp-phone-numbers-nhs-premium-0844-number/comment-page-8/#comment-1315405.

David

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Member

Has anyone sent a bill to their doctor for the amount spent on these phone calls?
They are not supposed to be doing this, therefore should be billed and if they don’t pay, pass the debt over to external debt collectors, and we all know what a pain they can be.

As for extra funding: We already pay through the nose via out NI & tax contributions to fund the National Health service, It is those who administrate it who generate the shortfall by continually and needlessly and wasting our monies, usually for wilful political reasons. It is not up to us to make up the shortfall generated by this wastefulness. Doctors should not be finding ways to fleece us for more money, it is our political masters who have screwed it up and who are culpable, and it is to they the doctors should be turning.

Member
Adam M says:
17 May 2012

213 Regent Road, Tividale, Oldbury B69 1RZ – Oakham Surgery.

This is the type of surgery that people should be having the hump with.
Spoken with these today and was told ” Dont care what patient wants, we’re in compliance”

This is the sort of surgery that makes it harder for the rest of GP surgeries. Most are really trying to change. But a very small minority, wont change until it is a lawful requirement.

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Member

Adam

This practice is clearly not in compliance.

If you called the 0844 number “in relation to services provided as part of the health service” then you have a valid case to report to fairtelecoms via this form – http://www.fairtelecoms.org.uk/submit-details-of-nhs-gp-with-084-number.html.

We will pass this report on to the Black Country PCT Cluster (encompassing Sandwell PCT), urging it to proceed with the necessary enforcement action.

The claim of compliance is most likely based on a misunderstanding of the terms of the GP contract and a failure to comply with its statutory duty to “have regard to” the NHS Constitution.

Member
Prefer not to say says:
17 May 2012

In my business, when I sent an invoice to a customer, I didn’t surcharge them for part of my operating costs! Neither did I alienate them by making them pay to contact me.

When it comes to a GPs surgery, that too is a business (except that they remain HIGHLY profitable, even during bad times). There is a fundamental difference: their income comes indirectly from their ‘clients’ via the client’s NI, Income Tax & VAT paid on some other purchases. Telephony is just another operating expense; as are Rates, Insurance (Building, professional, Public Liability), Electricity, Gas?, Doctors Salaries, staff wages , equipment to name a few.

Trouble is most Doctors are not business people. Telephone Companies knocked on Doctors doors & offered them free telephony services IF they changed their telephone numbers to an 0844 number to ‘facilitate’ the system….. All the Doctors saw was the saving they could make on their overheads. The Doctors didn’t think to sufficiently question the TelCo what was in it for the TelCo since patients would subsequently dialling a ‘lo-call’ (or what ever) number. Many people were DELIBERATELY ‘economical with the truth’ on this key ‘actual cost’ point & the legality of what was proposed.

Similar to the PPI scandal, Doctors should be forced to reimburse patients the call charges they forced patients to incur. The Doctors may in turn chose to sue the TelCos, but that isn’t the patients problem.

Do not get swayed by Doctors’ on their RIGHTFUL pedestals in society, by the fact that they are also businesses people.

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Member

Dear PNTS

We are very much in agreement.

With regard to the vast majority of these GPs it is not their Telco (Talk Talk Business), but one of its agents which is understood to have behaved in the way that you describe. There is published evidence of the spurious claims to which you refer.

The agent in question is part of company led by an individual who joined the panel of business experts interviewing finalist candidates on “The Apprentice” last year. We wait to see if he has been retained for the current series, or has “been fired”. We may not know whether or not Lord Sugar’s decision to fire or re-hire was based on his involvement in this matter having been highlighted by BBC North West Tonight on 2 August 2011.

(The individual in question is known to be litigious by nature, so I hope that readers will understand why I hold back from naming him, and that Which? will be grateful for my restraint.)

As for the suggestion that GPs are not “business people” …

We must recognise that the government disagrees. Through the Health and Social Care Act 2012, it has determined that GPs should lead the Clinical Commissioning Groups which will be responsible for awarding contracts to “any willing provider” of health services costing very large amounts of NHS money. Anybody able to negotiate with multi-national health service providers whilst protecting the principles of our National Health Service and securing the maximum value for public money must be a most competent business person! This must be even more true when they have no direct accountability to those who provide the money, but only to those who benefit from the services.

That is the government position. I have to say that I am more inclined to agree with you.

The GPs themselves, through the BMA, appear to agree with us as they opposed the Act when it was only a Bill.

 
As for responsibility and possible reimbursement, I would go back a statement from the then Health Secretary, and friend of the current government, John Hutton, in February 2005, when announcing a ban on use of 087 and 09 numbers: (see http://www.wired-gov.net/wg/wg-news-1.nsf/0/5F9339514E980EC0802572AB004BAD9F)
“The only special service numbers the NHS will be able to use in future are freephone numbers or those that offer patients a guaranteed low rate call, such as ‘0845’ or ‘0844’ numbers.”

The allegedly long-sighted Mr Hutton should have known that this statement was complete nonsense then, as it has remained ever sense. If we can discover who offered this alleged guarantee, then we know who to claim against. I think it most likely that this spurious suggestion of a guarantee may have come from a company (referred to above) who is alleged to have hoodwinked others, as it is known to have made similar statements in its own name.

Member
Speedy says:
18 May 2012

People who want to complain about their GP’s 0844 number and/or attitude to their right to use this number have now got a Confidential Lifeline by way of the Fairtelecoms Site. This has been very carefully thought out by 2 people that have the expertise to carry this method of Complaint forward. If at some further stage the PCT requests Personal Information and you want to give it, this can also be safeguarded by including with your Personal Information a Data Protection Template Letter that forbids the PCT from passing your Identidy to anyone.

Adam M – There are quite a few that have taken 0844 since being Banned from Contracting on this number – at least 4 Jan to April this year – NHS Patient would know how many.

The Regent Rd Surgery you mention – are already Unlawful – They are in Breach of Contract so are practising illegally and could possibly if the PCT enforced the Contract and they refused to responde could logically have their Licence withdrawn.

Dot – I agree 100% with your Post – you said my opinion almost word for word.

NEG/Daisy are now advising installing a Geographical Number line run alongside the 0844 if Surgerys are worried about Compliance – NEG is admitting it is not Compliant -this is not any answer – How will it be made known – Lettering all Patients, a permanent Advert in the local paper – I dont think so !!!

Missed Appointments – On an earlier Post a Patient complained to the PCT PALS that the Appointment had cost £2/3 and it needed to be cancelled but that PALS could cancel because she wasnt going to pay again. – I agree !!. That’s the reason for Missed Appts.

The Buck does stop with the GP, if they hadnt been conned by Big Business either through stupidity or greed in order to get a Free Enhanced Phone System at any price with the Patients paying for it not them, this problem would not have arisen. The saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is ” springs to mind.

To advertise that 0845 as local rate or Lo-call is illegal according to the ASA and Trading Standards and I am sure Trading Standards could be persuaded to look on 0844 in the same way. I will be going to a local Surgery and take a readable picture and I will be sending it to my Trading Standards. The only slight problem I have is my GP is an 01 number so I will be using another GP.

Most people that have had to use the 0844 number for years just dont realise the reason for the excessive cost until they have it explained.

Prescriptions, Glasses and other Medical Services – A local Pharmacy offered a Deposit Prescription Service to a Vulnerable Adult Neighbour I have been advising but luckily he showed it to me without signing but I found the NHS did a Low Income Voucher Scheme on Form HC1 from the Job Centre.

Sorry if my Post appears a bit scrambled but there is no Preview and I was making notes on other comments so havent refered to who said what.

Finally – To the people who are waiting for the 2 Sheets from me – I had to step back for couple of weeks as several projects I am also involved in all crowded in at once, my apologies – back on track now and these will be available very soon.

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speedy

thanks for a useful summary.

the revenue sharing system used by both public and private bodies is blatant opaque ploy to extract money from unwitting phone customers without any benefit to them.

Member
Adam M says:
18 May 2012

Good morning Speedy

“NEG/Daisy are now advising installing a Geographical Number line run alongside the 0844 if Surgerys are worried about Compliance”

This is 100% true. A completely unfeasible idea. As the normal standard line will only take 1 or 2 calls at a time. So when patients call, they will hear engaged tone most of the day. So will normally revert back to using the 0844. Our company is promoting daily that this is not the answer.

“The Regent Rd Surgery you mention – are already Unlawful – They are in Breach of Contract so are practising illegally and could possibly if the PCT enforced the Contract and they refused to responde could logically have their Licence withdrawn”

This maybe correct, but that is not what I work for, to enforce that they are not breaching contract. My work is more to bring them back to a local number as soon as possible, whether they are in breach of contract or not. But by staying in line with one contract (PCT) in turns make them break another contract (0844 Provider) and breach of this contract can run into the high 10s of thousands. Then in patients are making claims of compensation for these calls. This would put a strain on many surgeries in this position. Shouldn’t we make the best of a bad situation and try and fix it, and make sure this don’t happen again?

We need to remember that a GP surgery is a community service, and if we help them in this situation and try to guide them in the right direction, instead of shoving them – Then we can work together to eradicate this number. Their would be no point in me meeting with a surgery and saying ” Your not in compliance, Your breaking agreement, Your letting your community down and ripping them off!” I wouldn’t get not one to move away. The same if you back anyone into a corner, they will defend.
But if we approach this with the benefits to them,the surgery and the patients like ” Happier patients, a system that you get to keep at end of contract, more reliable service, can reduce call costs to mobiles” This is what works. Our telecom consultants and I are moving surgeries daily away from this number within weeks of contacting them. We take care of all dealings with NEG, and we help cover the costs of settling the contract.

But sending complaints and reporting surgeries, is not the way forward. As this could result in many surgeries having to pay out huge compensation bills, and breach of contract fees, and forcing many to close. Then where would we be?
Could we not put in as much effort as sending them references of other telecom providers offering to help change them back, and finding a solution?
Posting comments on NHS Choices for the appropriate surgeries? I have seen many listed on here that are not complained about on NHS Choices. This is where you can get a direct answer from your Practice manager or senior partner. Also this allows you to liaise with other patients and to discuss.

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adam

“But sending complaints and reporting surgeries, is not the way forward. As this could result in many surgeries having to pay out huge compensation bills, and breach of contract fees, and forcing many to close. Then where would we be?”

so the public who ARE being ripped off shouldnt complain??

complaints are one of the parts of a process to put things right.

how is complaining going to result in surgeries closing?

i cant imagine a single one closing for that reason.

this is just crying wolf and scaremongering which doesnt wash.

Member
Adam M says:
18 May 2012

Jackdaww –

“this is just crying wolf and scaremongering which doesn’t wash”

I don’t see how you can come to that conclusion! I work 8am to 6pm everyday trying to move companies and GP surgeries away from 0844.

If all surgeries cancelled contracts with providers and all compensation claims awarded, then closer will be high likely for some surgeries as this could take £10s or £100s of thousands out of the surgery.

But how about those who dont feel like there being ripped off? Your now talking for everyone in the public!?
We know the patients on here commenting disagree and feel “riped off” but how about the millions not complaining?
Even the department of health only received 3000 names and objections to this. And with over 50 million patients registered with a GP, Even if 1% of patients are complaining about this.

I get that this really bothers you Jack – But I cant see what your doing to help? Least I am making an effort to solve this, as are many others on here. The work being done by fairtelecom is great and this will help alot of people. But this isn’t the only avenue to take. For those that choose to breach rules, fair enough. But many are trying to comply, but find it very difficult to move contract and find the right solution to suit everyone.

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adam

yes – your saying that many surgeries will have to close if we complain is SCAREMONGERING.

if you are working hard on this – thats up to you – you have a business – but that does not preclude scaremongering.

i have not said – and i dont think anyone else here has – that surgeries should cancel their contracts. you are putting your OWN WORDS into peoples mouths.

so only 1% are complaining . so whats all the fuss about then? and whats the reason for this article?

i am certainly bothered at this blatant ploy by public and private bodies to extract money from phone customers with no benefit to them.
it is opaque – unclear – some people still dont know the extra cost.

it is clear from these posts on which conversation that others are bothered as well.

i am bothered by your spurious arguments and lack of objectivity.

so you are making an effort.
may i presume that you have a business that also gives you financial benefit?
perhaps its pure altruism on your part.

you are implying that i am not making an effort – that myself and many others posting here are not pulling their weight and must do more.

come down off your high horse .

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I have had my inbox completely inundated lately on this question of 0844 numbers and their use by GPs and quite frankly I am surprised at most of you for continuing to rise to the bait with this Adam M – whilst we have NHS Patient who is just as vociferous and knowledgeable on our side – why we are entertaining Adam’s comments when (a) he has not revealed who he is or where his company can be viewed eg a website and (b) obviously has completely the opposite view to the whole point of this ‘conversation’.

Yes lets have freedom of speech but this young man is just peddling the same old same old and you are all out there rising to his points. Can we please ignore Adam for a while and maybe he will go away and peddle his views to others who are not losing sight of the plain old fact that GPs were warned in 2009 that they were to stop migrating to 0844 numbers and were given until 2010 to do so and finalise any contracts they had. The mere fact that EVEN NOW they are still changing to 0844 numbers says a lot more about either them or their ignorance when faced with a good marketing sell. That is not our problem it is the GPs problem and I am sick and tired of reading Adam’s repeated comments in their defence. Please can we give this a rest where he is concerned by ignoring him. He has been allowed his say now let us hear from someone else.

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dot

i am pursuing adam m. because of the spurious arguments and the general nonsense he peddles.

i dont think its right to let him get away with it .

i think he is genuine and not a fraudulent con merchant winding us up – they couldnt make it up.

he is probably not allowed to publish his website etc by the rules of this site

however i dont agree with you he shouldnt continue however tiresome its getting.

we will see who blinks first.

i think his reply to you the other day was dreadful.

best wishes

jd

Member
Adam M says:
18 May 2012

Dear Dot, Who is choosing to remain annonymus!

I have given my details and details on how to contact me and details of my company. I will include again, and please feel free to notify me of any surgery that is using 0844, and I will call them to arrange an appointment to change back to an 01/02 number.

Adam Mills
Business Development
Premier Choice Telecom
W http://www.premierchoicetelecom.com

I dont see how you can say I am on there side? It is my job, what I do to earn a living, to make these surgeries move away from 0844. Its in my interest more so than most people in this forum, as I rely on them changing back to local number to earn my money. And I have been in touch with a number of surgeries listed on here and am making appointments to address this.

So ignore the work I’m doing if you wish. But you seem to be having ago at surgeries for using this number, but also complaing that I am working to move them back to 01/02 numbers!

And who are you to refer to me as a young man? How dare you be so patronising. Wouldn’t be acceptable for me to refer to you as “old lady” would it?

And quite clearly have same view, or I wouldn’t be doing this job day in day out. But I speak with a large number of surgeries, and have found in MY OPINION that most surgeries are making every effort to change this, Its only the minority that drag their heels.

And yes GPs have been warned for many years, but that is as far as it goes – They were warned.
Guidelines for 0844 use are clearly that GUIDElines!
Please find below the section that is most relevant from the Department of Health USE OF 0844 IN THE NHS GUIDELINES –

Interpretation of the Regulations and Directions –
The Regulations and Directions make it a contractual term that contractors must not enter into, renew or extend a contract or make arrangements for telephone services unless satisfied that people will not pay more to make a call to the practice than they would to make equivalents calls to a geographical number. It is also worth noting that the Regulations and 2010 Directions relate to calls to the practice and these do not necessarily need to be made only by patients. This does not mean that all calls to GP
5
The use of 084 numbers in the NHS
practices and NHS bodies must be charged at the same rate as an Ofcom-regulated call from a BT landline.
While the legislation does not require any specific commitment to look at the actual costs of calling a surgery, it does refer to the “arrangements as a whole”, which would mean looking at all means of telephoning the practice – including from payphones, mobile phones and landlines. Therefore, an assessment should look at mobile phones, and NHS bodies and primary medical services contractors have to ensure that when entering into the contract with the telephony provider callers using mobile phones are not, taking the arrangement as a whole, charged more to call the 084 number than if they called a geographical number from that mobile – whatever the actual cost of that call may be. The legislation is clear in that if, for example, a person calls a GP surgery with an 084 number from a mobile, landline, or payphone, they, taking the arrangements as a whole, should not pay more for that call than if they were calling a geographical number from that mobile, landline, or payphone.

[Hi Adam, we don’t allow contact details, so have removed them. We have kept the website address in just because people want to know where you’ve come from. Normally we wouldn’t allow this. Thanks, mods.]

Member
Adam M says:
18 May 2012

Jackdaww –

How can you call me I con merchant, when I am calling these surgeries day in day out to get them to move, to make the public happy? Crazy! And I think you will find that statement falls under the terms of “deformation of character

There are not many telecom providers out there offering what we do, and we are a genuine solution to this problem. And instead of getting me to help you, just want to argue.

I have said countless times that these 0844 numbers are not right, and the charges we pay are unfair, but lets sort the problem in a proactive way, not all go online and complain and find blame, and look for compensation.
You could refer us to these surgeries you now are not complying.

What are you actually doing to help this issue Jack?
Are you contacting GP’s daily?
Are you trying to find alternatives for them?
Are you making sure that this don’t happen again, with major changes in telecom contracts and terms and conditions?

What are you doing to help apart from spreading my negativity?
We all know this is a major problem. You can complain and have that complaint approved and found in your favour, but after that they will still need to change! Complaining can only go a certain distance until a solution can be found.

I have not made any negative comments about anyone on here, and have respected anyones individual opinion.

And your disgusted about my post in which I talk about my son – For what reason?

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‘Deformation of character’ Only the fonts were injured? 🙂

I do wish this problem could be sorted out. I am lucky that all the local GPs use geographical numbers. My present surgery does a remarkably efficient job in handling calls and also has an online booking system, which probably cuts down on phone calls.

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“The use of 084 numbers in the NHS practices and NHS bodies must be charged at the same rate as an Ofcom-regulated call from a BT landline.”

This is false. The GMS contract actually says that calls to the practice must be charged at a rate no more than a call to a geographic number. There’s no reference to BT prices in the regulations because the regulations apply equally to users of all landline and mobile phone networks alike.

“The legislation is clear in that if, for example, a person calls a GP surgery with an 084 number from a mobile, landline, or payphone, they, taking the arrangements as a whole, should not pay more for that call than if they were calling a geographical number from that mobile, landline, or payphone.”

This “requirement” seems to be saying that phone companies should be changing their prices for calls to 084 numbers. Most people pay nothing per call, for calls to 01 and 02 numbers, as they instead pay a monthly fee for an inclusive package of minutes. The 084 numbers used by GPs have a 5p/min Service Charge that the originating phone company must pay on to the terminating phone company who in turn may share some of it with the called party. The “requirement” seems to be asking phone companies to pay out the 5p/min while charging the caller nothing for the call… thereby making a loss of 5p/min on every call.

No. Instead, the regulations state that the number used by a surgery must cost no more to call than a call to a geographic number. Since 0844 numbers cost more to call than 01 and 02 numbers, this rules out the use of 0844 numbers by surgeries.

We’re agreed on the end result, but the wording that has been used by various parties has not been at all clear. Any references to BT prices or to “local rate calls” are spurious and designed to confuse or deceive. The wording in the GMS contract overrides everything else and is very clear as to what should happen.

Member
Adam M says:
18 May 2012

And when have I said no one else is pulling there wait? You putting words in my mouth there Jack!

And a job that gives financial benefit? Thats why its a job, coz I dont do it for free.
My skills in this market are highly sort after, and have over 10 years experience dealing with GP’s.

And if people dont know the extra cost then their needs to be more done to educate on this. Once again that is educate, not complain.

Scaremongering is pushing a belief without any factual basis. There is factual basis to this as I am speaking with surgeries, that if they breach contract with the provider, then they would have to close as the contract breach would of cost over £100,000. So that is not scaremongering. We need to help the surgery, not fight against it. Until this changes it will move very slowly.

The main objection is not the number, but to the rate you pay. And the department of health has said they can keep this number if it dont cost the caller any more than a normal 01/02 number. It does not at any point say. “0844 numbers are banned” If this has been stated somewhere I would like to see it, as it would help me greatly in my effort to stop the use of 0844.

I have every right to express my opinion, but I am doing so unjudgemental of previous posts. Nor have I been name calling or mud slinking, which I find completely unreasonable. And you will see I have released my details again, feel free to call me to discuss further.

Member
Adam M says:
18 May 2012

7 of the named surgeries on here now, have a meeting with us to change their 0844 to 01/02 numbers. This will be completed within the next 4 weeks

Please keep updating surgeries using this number and I shall contact.

Member
Honest Bob says:
14 August 2012

Adam M & Jackdaww

“And a job that gives financial benefit? Thats why its a job, coz I dont do it for free.
My skills in this market are highly sort after, and have over 10 years experience dealing with GP’s.”

[We have edited this comment. Please don’t include links to others’ personal information, nor make reference to their personal life. Thanks, mods.]

Help me see faith in your cause to help GP’s as the water is muddied with possible dishonesty, evasive use of the truth which is no ground to build a business relationship with anyone.

Not being specific to any person in particular, but if a human cant be honest with himself how can they be honest with someone else?

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Hello everyone, can we please step back a bit and be polite to one another. I’m afraid we can’t include contact details in comments Adam, so we have had to take it out.

We are calling for consumer views on this issue as we want to know how widespread the problem is. If they’d like to complain about it because they’re hit by large bills, that’s their choice. Thanks.

Member
Adam M says:
18 May 2012

I understand patients complaining that have been hit by high call rates. And agree it should be done through the correct channells. And that first channel would be through the surgery.
If anyone feels they have been charged to much, then they should notify the surgery and send a copy of their phone bill. If the comparison comes back that the charges are to high, then the surgery has to act BY LAW.
But if no one is sending there bills in, how can this be sorted?

I agree with complaining, but patients have been complaining for the last few years and how far has it got us?
Isnt there another proactive way we can sort this? Everyone needs advising on this matter, even the GP’s

Profile photo of davetparkes
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patrick

could you run a similar article on the use of 08xx numbers by commercial companies, plc’s etc.

these are all blatant ploy to extract money from phone customers with no benefit to them.

many thanks

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Hello Jack, we’ve recently published a Conversation about non-geographic phone numbers and their excessive charges. And we want to hear from you for a future magazine article.

Has the cost of calling, or the lack of transparency about charges, ever put you off calling a non-geographic number? And have you ever been shocked by how much it’s cost you to call a customer service line?

Please everyone come and comment on our latest: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/0845-0870-non-geographic-phone-numbers-call-charges-ofcom/

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Adam

A lot of us on this website and another one Which had running DID complain to our GPs and then to our PCTs and in my case I even went to the Information Commissioner on data protection to try to get my Doctor’s Manager’s email address so that I could email an appointment. (I won that but he still refused to take appointments by email!)

The whole process took me ten months last year and I got no where! The PCT refused to do anything about it, citing that it was indeed a lo call on 0844. Whilst I am an old lady without doubt, never the less to keep yourself young you need to walk a lot and so my feet did the walking and I moved to another GP practice that does not see fit to rip off its patients.

Hence this website – we are all holding our breath hoping upon hope that Which will take up the cudgels for us, as they cannot be ignored the way we are being individually!

As for your website – I am sorry but when I click on your products – there are those nasty words again lo call and in the same line 0844. It is not lo call Adam and it is about time everyone came clean on this and said it is what it is – a revenue raising means of telephony – where that revenue goes ? who cares ? we only care that it is us the patients who are being asked to pay fortunes just to report we are sick or – even worse – report we are better and want to cancel our appointments.

Member
Adam M says:
18 May 2012

Under products on our site it says – Calls to revenue-sharing LoCall rate 0844, 0845 and 0871 numbers can generate income for companies that experience high volumes of incoming calls.

These numbers are legal to offer and we normally recommend the for private companies that have the choice to use what ever number they please.

As I have said before I am a patient too, and my family, and my surgery is 0844. So I do sympathize with you. As this cost me alot of money each year aswell.

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adam

you are using the the word “LOCALL” on your website.

what exactly does that mean?

the implication is cheapness.

it is equally bad that PRIVATE companies use this opaque and blatant ploy to extract money from phone customers with no benefit to them.

your company promotes this.

it is legal – is it decent and honest?

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adam

you dont seem to be reading my posts correctly.

i did not call you a con merchant – just the opposite – i said you were genuine.

i have not used the word disgusted anywhere – the word i did use was dreadful – i was thinking of your spelling and grammar.

“And a job that gives financial benefit? Thats why its a job, coz I dont do it for free.
My skills in this market are highly sort (SIC) after, and have over 10 years experience dealing with GP’s.”

you make a big play on the effort you make – that can be construed as being altruistic – in fact you are running a business.

“And if people dont know the extra cost then their needs to be more done to educate on this. Once again that is educate, not complain.”

so now its back to saying we should not complain.
in one post you say you agree with complaining and in others you tell us not complain.

i think i have made my points on your posts – its getting tiresome and to the point of diminishing returns.

the thread owner has called for us to step back – however i may pick up any further points that arise .

and will you stop bending our ears about your business please.

ps. i wont be calling you thanks – why should i ?

if you look carefully you will find a few typos in my posts – but i’m not in your league.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hello Jack, please don’t ignore what I’ve said. The Conversation should be about the points at hand, not about one another. Thanks.

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I have said it before many times.
Any complaint procedure designed by the/ or for [by a vested interest] the designated offending party is not to assist those complaining, it is to divert complainants away from the traditional method of complaint.
No matter how well spun in terms of patient input, patient care etc…. The complaints procedure is not in patients interests.
Send the surgery the bill for your calls, if they refuse to pay take legal action to recover the debt.
I agree a lot of patients cannot afford this course of action, so those of you who can.
Stand up and be counted.
I have mentioned that I call my Doctors at home on Sunday and book an appointment, do they complain? of course not. I wish I had used that 0844 number now so I could take them on, but as they are willing to accept my calls on their personal phones, I have already lost my case.

I also challenge the surgery’s reasons for adopting these systems, I am certain that during the ‘pitch’ revenue benefits for the surgery were mentioned, if so this is deliberate ploy to fleece patents, and if there are cancellation costs then they should be borne by the partners who made this decision, not taken from the surgery’s budget, and ultimately our pockets!

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m

put simply

complaints procedures THEMSELVES are a SCAM.

quite right and i think a lot of people dont know that.

Member
Speedy says:
18 May 2012

Adam M

Whilst you may be doing an admirable job of changing 0844 to Geo. Numbers these are only Surgeries that are within the last few years of their mostly NEG Contracts. Would your Company be interested in buying out of their NEG Contract the Surgery that was posted on an earlier comment as having jumped on the bandwagon in MAY this year, or the ones that got 0844 This Year, I think not !!! the Contract you are offering would have to be too expensive to break even. I would love to know what their excuse for getting 0844 this recent would be, probably that others were getting away with it so why not grab what they can while the going is good. They Were Banned from entering into or renewing Contracts but that doesn’t seem to have stopped them since the initial announcement date and those must run into hundreds.

Nothing has been said by you about the easier option of Migration to 0344 – that is because your Company cannot offer this, 03 Migration is only allowed within the Terms of Contract by the Company that supplied the 08 number and is to migrate to the 03 version of that same number, this was put in place by Ofcom specifically for this purpose several years ago. The main reason has been that NEG Rumoured that they would view any request to 03 Migrate as Termination. You notice I said Rumoured that is because they are too much of a fly Company to actually put it in black and white because they know that it would have been Blazing Headlines that they were bringing the Telephony Industry into disrepute !!

I still maintain that 0844 GPs fall into 2 categories the Stupid Naive Conned and the Greedy, and to think that our Beloved NHS is going to be in the hands of these GP Consortiums eventually and the Naive will be conned again by Big Business and the Greedy will find another route to making a Fast Buck and the Patients will just be Cash Cows again.

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speedy

could you please explain to us exactly how this 034 number works and who pays what.

many thanks

Member
Speedy says:
19 May 2012

Hi Jack

Very basicaly every 0844 number including GP’s was twinned with its own 0344 by Ofcom several years ago – the rest of the number stays the same – It would be accepted on all Tarifs including Mobiles the same way that 01/02 Geo. numbers and at the same cost as them what ever arrangement you have with your Phone Providor – Landline, PAYG, Mobile Contract. If you dial out of Evening and or Weekend times it is still charged the same as if you had dialed 01 or 02 in the daytime.

But it would mean that the GP that 03 Migrated would have to pay the Leasing Costs of the Fancy Telephone System themselves – but in the Telephony Industry it is accepted that any 08 number can
03 Migrate within the Term of their existing Contract without undue expense – mostly Admin. costs and the Surgerys Notepaper etc. adjustment, this can be easily adjusted by Rubber Stamping the 0344 number change until Headed Paper etc. is reordered.

If a Telephony Providor such as NEG rumoured that any 03 Migration request would be assumed as Termination costing thousands this has had the effect of Scaremongering GPs off of 03 – which is precisely what has happened as most of GPs are with NEG – If a GP came forward and had written proof that NEG had issued this threat NEG would be in Deep Deep Do Do in the Telecom Industry. You will not find written proof the Company is too Fly to slip-up like that.

I am preparing a couple of Documents that could be printed off and taken in to your GP to imform them about Non-Compliance and the 03 Migration Option.

If you go back to Page 4 on here and look for my Posts to John Smith Navigation Instructing him to my PM (Personal Message Box on saynoto0870 – you will need to Register – when they are ready shortly
I could email them to you.

If you have any problems with the Navigation please post here – I am Speey on there also.

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speedy

many thanks for info.

so the GP switching to 034 would have to pay the costs of their phone system themselves – that sounds logical.

i have noted that in two posts by adam mills (see below) that say the GP would ACTUALLY HAVE TO PAY about 3p for every call they RECEIVE.

do you think that is correct and if so to whom who would they be paying this 3p ?.

thanks again
———————————————-
adam m post extracts

“”it is unreasonable to expect a surgery to install a number where they would be liable to pay for every call they receive, like with an 034 number.””

“”But as I have said in another post, the surgery can move to 034, but would be liable to pay around 3p for every call they take.””

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For the benefit of Jackdaww and others concerned about these matters there is a lot of information about these issues, on and linked to by, http://www.fairtelecoms.org.uk. A simple note about 03 numbers is a good suggestion – watch the site closely and make your own suggestions. Such a note could include the following information:

The special facilities available on all non-geographic numbers – 080, 084, 087 and 09, as well as 03, are exactly the same, and they have to be paid for.

On 084, 087 and 09 numbers, the telephone company takes this payment out of the enhanced termination fee it receives from the telephone company originating each call, before passing on any remaining balance as a “revenue share” to the user of the line.

On 080 numbers, the user is charged on the basis of the number of calls received.

Telephone companies could, and in some cases they do, charge for these facilities when they are used on a 03 number as a rental charge. Because it is normal to charge for these facilities on a per-call basis, as in all of the other cases, this same approach is normally followed when a 03 number is used.

In some cases, e.g. with 09 numbers, the primary reason for having a non-geographic number is to benefit from the revenue share. The providers of GP systems that use non-geographic numbers claim that the special facilities available (referred to as “enhanced telephony”) are the sole reason for using non-geographic numbers.

There are indeed such benefits, although it is arguable as to whether they are worth the cost, given that the desired effects can be achieved more economically in other ways. For GPs who have chosen a system that requires use of non-geographic numbers, that is their decision, good or bad, and it cannot be reversed whilst they remain committed to using that system.

GPs who wish to benefit from the features of non-geographic numbers in providing their NHS services are entitled to their choice, however they must meet the full cost of this decision. This means migrating to the equivalent 034 number, paying the cost of the telephone network features they are using and also foregoing the additional financial benefit of having other system costs covered at the expense of callers.

I hope this is helpful to all. All of these points (except for the compulsory application of the principle of “free at the point of need”, which applies to NHS providers) are relevant to the wider issue of 084 and 087 numbers.

I am happy to continue to repeatedly share this information with Which? readers, although I feel it would be better if Which?’s own in-house experts shared it with their readers with the authority that their name carries. I hope it is fair for me to point out that this type of information is to be found at http://www.fairtelecoms.org.uk, where fellow campaigners on these matters are invited to register their support and comment.

Member
Doug Powell says:
21 May 2012

Yes, it does bother me. My very elderly parents are being charged a premium rate number every time they call Doctor’s surgery. I have written to Secretary of State and got the usual elusive drivel in reply. What more can I do?

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The GP is in breach of its contract with the local Primary Care Trust, it is only they who can enforce compliance with its terms. We aim to provide assistance at http://www.fairtelecoms.org.uk, as mentioned above.

Pressure is building on this, BBC Radio Surrey and BBC Radio Sussex will be covering this story on their Breakfast shows on Tuesday (this) morning – at around 7.30 and 8.30 respectively.

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Member

I have confirmed that the BBC are keen to cover the general issue of rip-off telephone numbers as part of the Rip Off Britain pop-up shop in Gateshead on Sat / Sun 16 / 17 June.

As well as GPs and other NHS providers, this includes HMRC, the DWP benefits agencies, banks, airlines, most call centres and even problems with formally recognised “Premium Rate Service” providers.

Anyone who wants to attend and is happy to be filmed talking about how they have been ripped-off with “an expert” should contact the BBC, via the programme website, as soon as possible.

Member
bill hankin says:
29 August 2012

I live in Richmond North Yorkshire and my doctor still uses 0844 number it just makes money from people who are ill
I recently had a phone consultation with him where is ” free treatment at point of access”

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Member

As part of a continuing engagement with NHS officials, I have learned that GPs in the county of Hertfordshire (or at least those with 21 of the 175 surgeries) have a problem. They simply do not know what it costs to call them.

I have issued a media release – http://tiny.cc/FTMR_Herts – to perhaps encourage help from their patients. This includes a list of the surgeries (derived from NHS Choices) and has been circulated to the relevant MPs – including the previous Secretary of State for Health, who may know something about this!

It may be that Which?, its readers and participants in this conversation will be able to help also.

Member
Honest Bob says:
27 September 2012

[This comment has been removed for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks mods.]

Member
Craig says:
19 December 2012

Hi my GP has only started using 0844 numbers a month ago but we get automated answer machine which keeps you on hold for around 30 mins, I’ve never had to wait that long with the old number so how can this be easier for the patient, also now I can’t use a mobile to contact my GP and my phone contract doesn’t include 0844 so I now have to pay for this too. I would like to know if the government have advised not to use these numbers why start now

Member
Charlotte says:
9 April 2013

My doctors have an 0844 number and I was very unwell so I had to make several appointments and request call backs, I didn’t call up a lot of times but they always keep you holding on the phone, so when my phone bill came in I had been charged £13 just to call the doctors, and add on top of that the fuel costs to get there and the perscriptions I needed! I am still a student so money is short, I am so cross that a doctors would do this, the one place where they’re supposed to care! I’ve contacted them about the situation but i’ll be surpised if i hear back – they’re useless and because of this i’m changing doctors!! NOT reccomended!

Member
Kate says:
21 April 2013

I have recently moved and am a regular at the GPs as i unfortunately have several health conditions. I’m forced to make appointments every month and sometimes more often to get prescriptions. The way you get appointments is to phone in at 08.30am the day you want an appointment. I can’t afford to do this as the GP in Leicester uses an 0844 number. I never had a problem with my previous GP in Kent.
I think it’s disgraceful that even though i have complained about this to the practice manager, they haven’t acknowleged my difficulty in affording to call them. It means i have to go in person to the surgery to make my appointments which is out of my way. It’s also awful that the Department of Health spoke about this problem in 2009 and it’s now 2013 and nothing has changed!

Member
roberts family says:
25 April 2013

hello,
our doctors in borras park wrexham clwyd uses 0844 i think it is disgraceful charging ill people to call doctors surgery as our doctors always puts you on hold, it is cheaper for us to walk round than call them.
this should be stopped.

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Member

Those who wish their case to be brought to the attention of NHS England, please read the comment on the parallel conversation at https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/expensive-gp-phone-numbers-nhs-premium-0844-number/comment-page-8/#comment-1315405.

Member

Its a joke.
My surgery is STILL using an 0844 number – Sept 2013
I don’t have a landline, so my options are Mobile (expensive) or Skype (just as expensive).
I walk to the surgery to make my rare appointments but I am 65 and can still do this.
What about when I can’t?
I shall be asking why they haven’t changed to a cheaper option, the next time I go.

Member

___________________________

“I’ve just come from my GP’s Surgery and I’m furious.

I said to the receptionist, “It’s 11 days since I left a sample with you and I haven’t heard from you, so I’ve come to get the results.”
“Do you have an appointment,” she asked.
“No!” I said. “I’ve just come for the results.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” she said. “You have to ring in for an appointment.” She whipped out a handy slip of paper with two 0844 numbers in huge bold print, and instructions on when to ring.
“I’m here now,” I said. “Please make an appointment and I’ll wait or come back later.”
“No! It doesn’t work like that. You have to phone at 8-9:15am or 2-3:15pm* to make an appointment with any nurse, doctor, etc.”

To see any medic you are obliged to ring the 0844 number.

Phoning at any time you’re held on the line for an endless caller routing (caller putting off) system, clocking up minute after minute at 8p a minute (is it?).During the times above of course, you’ll be held on the line for ages listening to horrid music and a voice saying over and over, “We are experiencing heavy call loads at present, please call back later.” … because everyone has to ring at these times.

There was further discussion … finally I said to the receptionist, “Just make a note asking Dr Xxxx to phone me with my test the results, Please.”

Feeling my temperature rising 🙂 I left with … “No! It doesn’t work like that.” ringing in my ears.

For years, this GPs Practice has been forcing all patients to commence any action with a costly phone call. There’s no other way! The final date for changing to a local number was 21 December 2010. Getting on for 3 years ago. When are the authorities going to enforce it??? I hope you can do something.

Regards, Earl.

ps My GP is a 5 minute walk away, so I’d rather go there than phone, besides the exercise does me good!!
.
pps I’m concerned that I may be black-listed if this gets out (if I haven’t been already).”

Profile photo of ironsides
Member

Earl, I can feel that you are rightly peeved. I am in the same position. I refuse to phone as I can get to the surgery easy.just why do the medical profession who are now very well paid act so badly? In the end I feel they will lose. But the fear of being removed from their list is the reason most people do not complain. They ERS a law unto themselves but like the Bankers their turn will come. Have you posted comments on NHS direct? Find your surgery and you can leave comments direct to the surgery,anonymously. Good luck keep up the pressure. Do not forget to write to your MP

Member
Ginette says:
8 November 2013

My GP practice uses an 08444 number, still. Recently it has added quite a lot of information sections onto the front of your call so that you can’t get to your actual call for quite a while. Whilst it is sometimes helpful to hear these messages, it is not helpful to have to pay so much for phoning your doctor.
Practice: Clerklands Surgery, Vicarage Lane, Horley, Surrey, RH6
http://www.woodlands-clerklandspartnership.co.uk/