/ 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?


For information, this briefing has been placed in the House of Commons Library:

It’s the usual DH mish-mash compromise of not actually banning the use of 0844 numbers but ‘advising’ GPs to ‘consider’ ……..




Enormous pressure from other quarters has been brought to bear on the DH, leading to the terrible mistake that was made in 2005. This has now led to the situation where its intentions, now more clearly expressed, are still being frustrated.

The DH has not been as strong as it could be in denying and contradicting misrepresentations of both its position and simple facts, however:

– The requirement not to use a telephone number that costs more than the cost of an equivalent call to a geographic number is embedded in the formal contract between GPs and their PCT. This is an enforceable contractual requirement, not just “guidance”.

– In an oral answer (not yet quoted in the note) on 12 July 2011, a Health Minister stated:

“It is absolutely clear that there is no distinction between landlines, mobiles or payphones. The directions are very clear that patients should not expect to be charged any more.”
“The Department is very clear, and the general medical services contract makes it very clear, that GPs are not allowed to do it.”

There is no “mish-mash” in those statements. They are on the record, although they have not been circulated directly to those who need to see them.

Responsibility for enforcement of the terms of the contract rests with PCTs, which are autonomous bodies, not the DH itself. The DH can guide and inform PCTs, it cannot direct them, other than through the terms of the contract which it has prepared.

The problem is that PCTs are too ready to accept the Guidance of the BMA, which stands opposed to the ban and claims (quite wrongly) that PCTs “do not have a role to play”.

It is for each PCT (now managed in 50 Clusters) to understand its proper statutory duty and take the necessary enforcement action. They clearly need more help from the DH, not least in providing authoritative denials of the nonsense being circulated by those opposed to the clear objectives of what it has done.

MPs must be urged to put more pressure on the Department of Health ministers to ensure that PCTs get the assistance which they obviously need. Direct representations to their local PCTs could also be helpful.


In reply to Patrick’s comment above – https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/gps-using-expensive-0844-phone-numbers/#comment-34719 (The webmaster may want to check that the comment permalinks work for other users, as they do not work for me!)


We are both quoted in the Commons Briefing paper, and we both agree with the point about commercial exploitation. The terms of use for this conversation are clear, as was Jo’s stated intention to utilise the comments for the purposes of Which?.

Just for the record, I must point out that I am slightly misrepresented by the editor of the Commons Library Note (final page). My quoted comment, from the Guardian article under my full name was that the use of 084 numbers HAS been banned by the terms of the Directions to NHS bodies and the revisions to the GP contracts, not that it “should” be banned. (I hope those keen to know the real name behind my common nickname have found it by the various means available.)

The point which Which? is seen to have missed in its quoted (allegedly “featured”) contribution, is that both landline and mobile call contracts are invariably packaged – having some calls as inclusive is not some special option that is promoted – it is an essential part of every arrangement.

Whilst one package may be offered by default, every consumer has to choose the most suitable option from those on offer, according to their pattern of telephone usage and their wallet. If you regularly make weekday daytime calls to ordinary numbers from a landline, then only if you are wealthy could you afford not to have these covered by a package. If you only make calls at weekends, then you would choose a Weekends Only option.

BT’s Unlimited Anytime package has jumped from being a minority item some years ago to now being declared as its “most popular” Call Plan – I am told by BT that this means that it has the most subscribers. The fact that the “penalty charges” for making calls to geographic rate (01/02/03) numbers outside the terms of the subscriber’s chosen Call Plan have continued to rise at the rate of 30% per annum, whilst the Anytime package subscription fee has reduced, may well have something to do with this change in recent years.

Please verify this point and check the facts before including it in your next report to members and magazine subscribers. As they pay for your services, I would not wish them to be misled by hearsay picked up on the internet.


I understand that BBC Coventry and Warwickshire will be discussing this issue tomorrow morning (1 November) between 9 and 9:30. Those in the area with experiences to relate may wish to get in touch with the Annie Othen show. It is possible to listen live through BBC i-Player.


I have just had a reply to my third letter to my surgery about 0844 numbers. They insist that they will not change unless the DOH instructs them. I sent the Hansard from 12th July where it was said they must not do it. And the recent stuff now in the Parliamentary Library. Plus my phone bill. Thye say that a survey indicates that the patients are happy with the phone system That is because before they changhed it was always engaged, now it not but you have to hang on whiloe paying money to them and the phone company. Unfortunately I believe that the survey was done long ago. BUT I suspect it is the money that motivates them. I feel that we are being totally let down by the Government who probalby would like to stop it but have not got the will. We need a Which Super Complaint.


Your surgery has a contract with the NHS. Revisions were drafted by the DH (in negotiation with the BMA), sent out for consultation, approved by parliament and then served on GPs by the PCT.

If that is not regarded as sufficient instruction, then it is for the relevant PCT to enforce compliance – ultimately through the courts.

Many NHS services are excellent and greatly appreciated by patients. We pay for them through our taxation, not through charges levied (perhaps indirectly) by providers according to the quality of the service. This is where the NHS differs from “consumer” issues.

A recording of the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire item is available at this link.

Speedy says:
1 November 2011

I quote from nhspatient dated 25th Oct

The requirement not to use a telephone number that costs more than the cost of an equivalent call to a geographic number is embedded in the formal contract between GPs and their PCT. This is an enforceable contractual requirement, not just “guidance”.

– In an oral answer (not yet quoted in the note) on 12 July 2011, a Health Minister stated:

“It is absolutely clear that there is no distinction between landlines, mobiles or payphones. The directions are very clear that patients should not expect to be charged any more.”
“The Department is very clear, and the general medical services contract makes it very clear, that GPs are not allowed to do it.”

There is no “mish-mash” in those statements. They are on the record, although they have not been circulated directly to those who need to see them.

Responsibility for enforcement of the terms of the contract rests with PCTs, which are autonomous bodies, not the DH itself. The DH can guide and inform PCTs, it cannot direct them, other than through the terms of the contract which it has prepared.
End of Quote

Sorry it is a bit long Ironsided – it is not relavent if Patients are Happy – and on 0344 they can still queue and it is accepted on all Call Plans at same Rate as 01/02 – only difference is that GPs dont have Patients paying for the Privilage of Phoning for Appts. and paying for their lovely Expensive Phone System – But most Important is that they are in Breach of their NHS Contracts with their PCT – and these are enforcable by Law – this is going to happen when we can wake up PCTs to their responsibilities if GPs dont Migrate.to 0344

Ironsides you should Complain to your PCT PALS Dept (Patient ? Liason Service ) all PCTS have them – give them COPIES of your correspondence with your GP – they cannot ignore you – If they do go higher to the Chief Exec. pointing out that you are being ignored by PALS Dept.

Please try this and keep us updated here on any results

ursula graham says:
11 November 2011

Yes, it really does bother me, my Mother is 94 and has a variety of medical problems so I have to make frequent appointments for her with the GP practice. I find I am often in a long queue waiting to speak to a receptionist, this morning there were 11 calls in front of me so of course this is just running up the cost of the call or it means I have to find the time later to call again. I feel really angry that GP’s are trying to enhance their already generous salaries at the expense of retired and elderly people on low incomes, it is quite scandalous.


I am really angry that my GP just refuses to change. I am ready to go to the PCT, BUT I am scared they will remove me from their list. If that happens what can I do??


Hi ironsides,

Your PCT or GP cannot remove you from their list for complaining. The NHS Constitution pledges “to ensure you are treated with courtesy and you receive appropriate support throughout the handling of a complaint; and the fact that you have complained will not adversely affect your future treatment (pledge)”. If they remove you from their list for making a complaint you should make a complaint to your PCT and have it properly investigated.

Which? has provided an online guide on how to complain, if it should come to that. You can find the guide at: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/making-a-complaint/how-to-complain-about-nhs-services/how-to-complain-about-nhs-services/



The important point in making a complaint is to be clear about the basis for your complaint and to remain courteous. There was one notable case some years ago where a patient was removed from a practice list for complaining about the telephone number used, however following a lengthy appeal process was re-instated, after accusations of discourtesy could not be sustained.

The practice will probably claim that it is not in breach of its contract, with the support of its keenly litigious system provider. It is however the Primary Care Trust that is in breach of its statutory duty, by failing to enforce the terms of the contract, which effectively prohibit use of telephone numbers which cost more than an equivalent call to a geographic number.

There are plenty of references to be found on my NHS Patient blog. I may also be in a position to assist directly if contacted through the links available there.

I am also interested to hear any comments on the idea of perhaps forming a specialist organisation or group, perhaps related to Which? in some way, to pursue this and other similar issues in a more formalised manner.


I see on the NHS Choices web site for my GP in Hadleigh Essex SS7 Post code (will not mention the name of practise) that there are now three comments saying they do not like the 0844 number. One of them is from a contact of mine at the same GP practise but the other is unknown to me. Can anyone give me written evidence that 0344 provides the same functionality for the surgery as 0844. In one of my letters I mentioned this but they never comment directly on my specific questions. Just say they comply with all guidance and will not change unless the DOH gives them specific instructions. I am getting together all the evidence I want for the PCC but feel that one more try to the GP with all the evidene I can muster will mean that I have tried all I can to get their attention before I go to the PCT. The 0344 facts will help I hope. I do not want just to say they can do it I want written evidence of the functionality from some reliable independent source. The PCT track still makes me a bit nervous.

Speedy says:
17 November 2011

Hi Ironsides
I am sure nhspatient will reply shortly – in the meantime I mention again my Note on my Post of 1st Nov – when you take any Documents e.g. Phone Bills, Letters etc. to the PCT always take Photocopies of whatever Papers you take with you – Take the origals with you also but DONT leave the Originals with anyone, give them the Copies after they have verified that they are True Copies.

You could also take your Friends Phone Bill with you if it shows significant Phone Charges to show that it is not only you that find this number very expensive.

Good Luck with your Mission. Please keep this Forum updated with any results.


The delay in replying has been due to my looking for the most suitable and simple statements to provide. The reply will follow here shortly.


The now much delayed reply has now been published, at the following link – http://nhspatient.blogspot.com/2011/11/contribution-to-which-conversation.html.

I believe that some well-sourced, clear and useful statements are available.

robbie says:
24 February 2012

Hi Ironsides, I think I know the surgery in Hadleigh essex you are talking about, it has just been extended, and has many doctors, I am annoyed that these middle class doctors are making extra money charging poorer people to phone up on the 0844 number, I go to this practice, and have been kept waiting for the phone to be answered for quite a while and running up a bill. These practices should be exposed. good luck!

Speedy says:
19 November 2011

Hi Ironsides

Can I ask a rather odd question – How did you intend to make your complaint to the PCT e.g. Physidally – email – Snailmail this will make a difference as to the format of the Documents you offer as evidence.

The main Force of your Complaint to the PCT should be that the GP is in Breach of their Contract (and Recent Variation from DoH) with the PCT and the PCT Should be ENFORCING this recent variation that covers that the 0844 number cannot possibly COMPLY. If Anybody in phoning the Practice whether Landline or Mobile pays more than the charge for a Geografical Number and since 0844 is not accepted on ANY Call Plans it all will cost MORE – therefore DOES NOT COMPLY. The PCT must ENFORCE this blatent Breach of the NHS Contract – That is THEIR JOB.

I would suggest that you collect ALL Phone Bills available including Friends and Neighbours if on This GPs Practice (you can block out their Addresses and just LEAVE the Accnt. Number to show its genuine to be anonymous – BT etc. will not give out names etc.)

It doesnt matter how the GP makes ‘ All reasonable efforts to comply ‘ 03 Migration is only one of 2 options – they could revert to a Geog Number with a similar but probably cheaper System as most to date seem to have done.

I have personally spoken to 3 Practices who have recently moved to Geog. Numbers with similar systems to their 0844 one, to find How their Change was Managed, and Only One was aware of the 03 Option, and all are very happy with their New Systems and have Happy Patients.

If you want to have another go at your GP OK but I think you have enough evidence in hand plus all Phone Bills for your Complaint to the PCT

If I have mis-informed with any of my information please let me know – for my Education as well as everybody else on here. I apologise for the Capital Words – not really shouting – I couldnt find a Bold or Highlight on here.

Good luck Ironsides – Gooooo get em !!!


Many thanks to those who have given me information and guidance on this. I am not yet getting support from my friands. They all agree but do not seem keen to give me the bills showing costs. I think like me they are scared to upset the Practise.
I am still of the opinion that I will write one more time to the surgery, I feel that I want to make certain that they have had every chance to give me a sensible response rather than the brush off.
So I will do that, and in doing so I will plead for them to meet me to discuss face to face (one on one). None of their solicitors present or mine!!
I have asked twice before for a meeting, but they ignore my request when they reply. I think that if they persist in refusing to meet me, for an adult discussion, where I can explain all my evidence and they would have a chance to put their’s they will look very bad. It just is sensible for these things to be discussed and solved if possible. If not then OK I go ahead to the PCT. It will take me a few days to get the letters and documents ready to send to the Doctor. I want to get firewnds to support me if possible. When I go to the PCT it will be in writing, the letter will be rather big with documents!

Speedy says:
22 November 2011

Hi Ironsides

I can understand your friends on the Practice worrying about their names – as I explained earlier get the phone bills Photocopied with the names and addresses covered but not the account number -for the PCT – but if you want to show the GP phone costs you could type a list of each 0844 cost with no dates so they cant cross check with appointments – surely your friends will support you if you explain that no name & and addresses will show – and dont leave any of your documents with the Practice.
You could leave the 03 Migration leaflets with them because that is Open information on the Web.

I dont think you will get any joy from this GP – there are going to be quite a few that dont want to give up their extra petty cash and will taken to Court by PCTs for Breach of Contract when they get their act together – Take a Friend with you who has NO connection with the Practice as a Witness so that the GP cannot say that you were abusive !!! Safety First.

SallyLou says:
4 January 2012

What about other numbers that do not begin 08 or 03?
I called a number I was asked to call that I thought was a mobile number a few months ago when my daughter in law was in hospital losing her baby, my grandchild.
I have a monthly mobile contract and assumed this would be part of my minutes as I never go outside my allowance or use 08 or premium numbers.
I rang her a few times as she has nobody but my son and myself and was going through hell and also terrified she would never be able to have children again. I live a long way away.
About a week later when checking my minutes quota for the month on my text messaging service I discovered a charge of over £60 that had appeared. When I rang t mobile and asked them what it was I was told there was no such charge and not to worry I would only be billed for my usual monthly amount.
I rang a few times about this to make sure and each time was told conflicting things. Eventually I was told I DID owe this amount plus a hefty vat charge on top, and again after ringing a few times (I was told to ring back later when my new minutes came in and discuss it then to see what could be done) I was told I would have to pay this amount and that it was a premium number being used by the hospital in question.
I was absolutely gobsmacked, very upset and outraged they werre exploiting people at their most vulnerable to line their pockets. How greedy and immoral can you get?!
My daughter in law, poor girl, was also paying a fortune to watch tv aswell as other major costs in the hospital. It just beggars belief.
So now aswell as losing my grandchild I find Im being charged a fortune for ringing the poor mother.
T mobile last said it was an international number the hospital is using. I have NEVER heard of an international number being used INSIDE this country. I do not understand it at all, the whole thing is illogical and senseless to me. I may be old school but I thought in a geographical area you would use a geographical number or mobile number.
I am utterly disgusted with the whole situation, both with the hospital (NHS) and t mobile


Hi SallyLou.

I’m sorry to hear you had such an expensive bill on top of what must have been a very upsetting experience for you and your family.

I had a similar experience when my Grandad was in hospital a couple of years ago – a charge of about £2 just to call the number to show him how it worked. The number to call these systems are usually personal numbers. This range of numbers start with ’07’ so look like mobile numbers but aren’t. They do cost more than mobiles and won’t be included in inclusive minutes, as you unfortunately found.

We looked at these systems last year and our research found many people had a similar experience to you: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2011/06/hospital-tv-and-phones-expensive-and-confusing-reveals-which–256585/




The 070 scam, practised by Hospedia and others, is the result of a poorly planned scheme to allow a private contractor to provide hospital bedside facilities. The sums never added up to make this a viable business, but it struggles on supported by hidden and wholly unacceptable rates of charge.

Ofcom has itself long been struggling ineffectively to address the disaster that has occurred with “personal numbers”. Another idea that sounded good in theory but has never worked, leaving the 070 range as little more than a means for scams.

Ofcom is however now seeking to (very slowly) address this and other issues, including the 084 numbers. A further consultation, following that conducted last year, will be issued shortly. I stand ready to work with Which? to ensure that a powerful, well-informed and consumer-focussed response is made to this forthcoming consultation. (The detailed issues are too complex to cover properly here.)


I took a copy of the government’s recommendations to my surgery but was told they had a contract for their 0844 number and couldn’t get out of it. I know that many organisations have their fancy telephone systems paid for by the callers. Fortunately if I need an appointment I can book on line, so it’s not often I have to ring them.



You will note that the GP’s contract requires them to “take reasonable steps, including varying their arrangements, to ensure that callers do not pay more”.

There is no reason why they should abandon their system, they simply need to switch over to the equivalent 0344 or 0345 number. That facility is offered by all leading telephone companies. My blogging at http://tiny.cc/GP084escape may be relevant.

Readers may be interested to note that this issue will be debated in parliament next Tuesday. Bob Ainsworth MP has secured an adjournment debate in Westminster Hall on 24 Jan at 12:30.


So, we’ve been to the parliamentary debate on GP’s expensive phone numbers. We’ll have a Convo up soon about this… watch this space.


It can start here.

A list of 1292 GP surgeries in England using 084 numbers, with a link to the respective NHS Choices entry and accompanied by details of the relative calls cost under commonly used tariffs is published at http://tiny.cc/Burnslist.

In replying to the debate, Health Minister Simon Burns claimed that he was unable to read this, although he is aware of the summary total. He urged all those who have contributed to this conversation to “send us the evidence”, as he is not aware of any cases where patients are paying more.

Watch the relevant extract from the debate on 24 January at http://tiny.cc/Burnseve.

A full transcript will be published in Hansard later on Wednesday.

Peter says:
24 January 2012

Calling my GP costs us typically two pounds every month, sometimes more. Calling daughters in Bath, Toulouse and Edinburgh costs nothing on top of the basic phone bill. So we contribute about £25 a year to our GP. Why is it the more medical problems you have, the more you pay? I never use the phone to renew prescriptions, either calling in or sending an email, but the transaction involved in booking an appointment is too complex to do other than by phone. Hobson’s choice?


I have recently switched to a phone + broadband tariff that includes daytime calls. As a bonus it allows me to make a reasonable number of calls to the expensive numbers that I have tried to avoid for years. Even though my GP calls are free local numbers and I could now call expensive numbers I will continue to support those who are campaigning for this nonsense to be stopped. That’s not going to happen overnight, so it might be worth deciding if it’s worth moving to a more expensive tariff to cover premium rate phone calls. It’s not just GPs that are guilty of making money out of callers.


Despite all of our efforts, Simon Burns MP, Minister of State (Health Services) has failed to discover which GPs are using expensive phone numbers!

I present his video appeal for evidence in this blog entry – http://tinyurl.com/DH-SaveNHS.

Simon Burns and his colleagues want a consumer-driven health service to replace our National Health Service, however they are not yet ready to admit that consumers can only have real choice if they are allowed to pay for the services that they want. Mr Burns wants to know of cases where GPs are already taking subsidy for their telephone systems and other costs at the expense of patients, by using 084 telephone numbers, so please respond to his appeal.

We wait to see whether he will congratulate the GPs for their enterprise, ensure that the present rules of the NHS are enforced or continue to turn a blind eye to the evidence.


I have just finished a Freedom of Information Act request with my GP involving their 0844 contract and an email address as an alternative – both of which were initially refused by the Surgery. I finally saw the contract and today received the email address of the Practice Manager. I asked the Freedom of Information Commissioners Officer if this now was a precedent that a request to GP Surgeries for an email address (so that appointments can be made at least by patients who have computers/internet phones) and received the following reply:

“I should clarify that the public authorities subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) in this case were the individual GPs that are part of the practice rather than Chigwell Medical Centre itself.

In this case the email address that was included on the contract was that of an individual, the practice manager. The Information Commissioner (Commissioner) found that disclosing the email address would not breach the Data Protection Act 1998, section 40(2) of the FOIA was not engaged and the information should be disclosed. The Commissioner has issued guidance on releasing the names and other information about public authority employees at the following links:

When should name be disclosed (PDF)

Public authority staff info (PDF)

It is not possible to say that email addresses, if they exist, must be disclosed as this will be assessed on a case by case basis. However, if a public authority is going to withhold an email address it must be able to rely on a specific exemption under the FOIA.”

I consider this now means that surgeries cannot refuse patients their Practice Manager’s email address (or some such authority within the Surgery) and that once you have requested that, again I do not believe you can be refused appointments just because you email them.

I no longer am at the above surgery but perhaps others in this ‘conversation’ could try using these email addresses and see what occurs?


Hi all, thought you’d like to know that we now have a new Conversation on this subject of expensive GP phone numbers – do come and read and join in:


Chris Simpson says:
16 February 2012

My doctors surgery is still using 0844 for all surgery contacts. Apart from the extra cost of this number, there’s the usual menu- press 1 for appointments 2 for the practice nurse, etc, then each doctor is given a number option and when the receptionist finally answers the call, you’re asked again what it is that you want and with whom. I would prefer a local geographical number or the call not to be answered until there’s someone on the end who can deal directly with your inquiry – but that wouldn’t generate telephone income for the surgery, would it!

Jim Flood says:
3 February 2012

My GP practice has the following number:0844 477 3674.
The name is Saltaire Medical Practice
The address is Richmond Road, Shipley, W. Yorks BD18 4RX


I spoke to my local Patient Advice and Liaison Service today on this subject. They have requested all GP practices in the area to show reasons why they cannot comply with the request not to have 0844 numbers. It seems that if they can show it would cost a lot they don’t have to comply, but they must allow patients to request a ‘call-back’. There are 10 practices in the area using 0844 numbers and none have changed numbers. By the time you’ve requested a call back you’ve already had to incur more than normal charges, so this is contrary to the guidelines. PALS suggested I make a freedom of information request that would show what my own GP practice has said, but I am reluctant to say who they are in case it affects my relationship with my GP and you can’t get the information without giving your details.

16 February 2012



My GP has just introduced an 0844 number. The receptionist ells me “everyone” will be able to call them more cheaply on this number. She wasn’t impressed when I contradicted her.

robert smith says:
17 February 2012

My Doctor’s surgery, the Saint Marks Medical Centre in Southport still uses a 0844 number. It is 0844 477 2585 and will take more than a few seconds to get through to the reception due to “messages”.
On top of that they are quite incompetent with simple things like ignoring a request for a double prescription due to an imminent holiday. On one occasion, after waiting some time for them to ring back and wanting to go out I rang again only to find they had copied my telephone number incorrectly and could not be bothered to look up my records to double check.
But in this world what else do I expect, surely not pride in their work!
This is a medical which has at least 10 doctors [ all on £100k pa ] a practise manager [ on what? £50k + pa ] and several PBI’s on probably less than 3!%k pa.
Smith southport

G. R. Owen says:
18 February 2012

My doctors surgery at Bradford Road Medical Centre still uses a 0844 phone number; 0844 477 3052. This is at 60, Bradford Road, Trowbridge, Wilts. BA14 9AR. Once through, you have three menu choices.
This is supposed to be more efficient though I suspect that the call goes to the same receptionist whatever the choice made

Brian Temporal says:
19 February 2012

My doctors are still using 0844 their no and address is
Lupset Health Centre
George-A-Green Court
Tel0844 477 8631


It is good to see people drawing attention to particular local cases.

I have collected and published a list of cases, which is based on NHS Choices for England – numbering 1,272 surgeries at present. I hope that Which? will be using this as part of its presentation of evidence. I have confirmed that all cases identified in (both parts of) this conversation are included on this list.

If you want to see if your local case is listed, use this link – http://tiny.cc/GP084Regs – to access the content for your area. You can do this:
a) by viewing a full list for the region,
b) on a map, or
c) by selecting the list for the local NHS organisation.

Which? also wants to collect copies of individual telephone bills. These are seen as being necessary to prove that the telephone companies do actually charge in accordance with their tariffs. These tariffs are referenced and summarised in a table found at http://tiny.cc/GP084Costs.

Please advise me of cases that may have been omitted, or any other errors. There is a link for feedback on the “Contents Page” at http://tiny.cc/GP084DB. This also shows other features, including summaries of the cases found in the constituency of each MP, on a ranked list.

Please also continue adding your comments to this conversation, or its newer companion at https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/expensive-gp-phone-numbers-nhs-premium-0844-number.

David Lawton says:
23 February 2012

Yes, my GP still uses an 0844 number, and for the same reasons as you (I have a call-inclusive BT contract) I object to this, to the extent that I will go to great lengths to not use it (ie visit the surgery rather than call it, etc.). The number is 0844 477 3999, Vale of Belvoir practice, Cropwell Bishop ‘branch’. Regrettably I do not have a BT bill to clarify the cost.


I applaud the efforts of Which? to draw attention to this issue. It would however be very foolish to believe that the government is engaged in an objective assessment of evidence. That exercise was completed nearly three years ago, long before Which? got involved. Sadly I was not involved when the previous government made a chronic mistake in 2005, which has led to this situation.

In the recent debate attended by representatives of Which?, the Minister denied the clear existence of evidence of which surgeries are using these numbers and the costs incurred in calling them. It should also be noted that he asked for evidence of “overcharging by GPs”. I doubt that Which? will be able to find any case where a GP is responsible for setting telephone tariffs, as he also demanded that any evidence must be “precise”.

I fear that, in the context of the “NHS reforms”, this issue has gone well beyond the stage where Ministers simply want to take advice from those who know what is going on, so as to help them make the right decision. It may be that the issue has become too “political” for Which? – although this is a decision that Which? must take in forming a position on the relevant points.

For those who report cases here and perhaps wish to see something done about the issue, I have published a blog entry “What to do if you are paying too much to call your NHS GP” – http://nhspatient.blogspot.com/2012/02/what-to-do-if-you-are-paying-too-much.html.

This recognises the stage which we have now reached with this issue, as I understand it. It reflects the campaigning activity which continues. I repeat, campaigners are grateful for the support of Which? and hope that its resources will be deployed effectively.

Elizabeth Lane says:
27 February 2012

Ri chmond Group Practise in Colne Lancashire uses 08443879007.On going to the surgery to avoid ringing to make an appointment I was told I had to ring at 8am. this was the only way to make a non urgent or urgent appointment! Today I will be leaving this practise which I have been with for 64years. I am moving to a practise that uses a local number.

Ann Anthony says:
27 February 2012

Our otherwise excellent GP practice uses 0844, which we find very annoying when hanging on for an urgent appointment at 8 am., though for a non urgent appointment we can book it in person (only a 5 minute walk). We have printed off a bill which covers a period of illness, but where do we send it to please?

Steve Evans says:
6 March 2012

Our surgeries and practices in Port Talbot,South Wales have been using this 0844 number for a long time now.All the local doctors surgeries in the area were closed then merged into this one big super surgery…..all use 0844….and Virginmedia charge 3p more per minute than BT.

[This comment has been edited, due to direct contact details. Read our T&Cs for more info. Thanks, mods.]

Steve Evans says:
7 March 2012

We have a brand new Resource centre in Port Talbot that opened 2 years ago,and merged several different sugeries into this one building.Some of the surgeries inside the resource centre have local (01639) numbers,but a few….including mine,have 0844 numbers.Surely this is not fair play?,and to make it worse,viginmedia are 4p a minute more expensive than BT to phone these 0844 numbers.Here are a couple of examples…





Amazing isnt it??……….some patients in Port Talbot are getting ripped off,such as myself,and some arent.I think that this is a scandal that should be sorted out immediately.

carol francis says:
14 March 2012

hi yes it does bother me alot as my gp STILL use.s 084 to ring them when they first changed it to this number as i can still remember when i got my phone bill i was realey angry as it cost me over a £1.00 and as i am a pensioner i cant afford phone call like that and whats even worse you get all this press this press that when before they just used to answer the phone themselves we have 2 receptionist and when they put you throu to them they have the cheek to ask if you can hang on a moment and that can take up to 2.to.4mins why should i have to wait it cost enough already they should have one person answering phone calls and one for people with oppointments



Your GP seems to be badly organised and not able to take care of patients properly. There is clearly plenty of room for improvement.

By using a 084 number however, it is in breach of its NHS contract. It is not permitted to use a number that costs you more to call than a geographic number.

Which? has been collecting evidence to show that telephone companies do charge in accordance with their published tariffs, as the Health Minister claims not to believe this. We are however waiting to hear if it has been successful in persuading him to change his mind. See the newer “conversation” at https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/expensive-gp-phone-numbers-nhs-premium-0844-number/.

I offer some guidance on what you can do if you want to take this up with your GP (see http://nhspatient.blogspot.com/2012/02/what-to-do-if-you-are-paying-too-much.html). I do understand that some people are reluctant to follow this route, and it is the wrong way for issues with our “National” Health Service to be dealt with. The Primary Care Trusts are in place to represent us all and to enforce the regulations which your practice is breaching.

Kingsley Spicer says:
14 March 2012

Abbey Medical Centre, Station Road, Kenilworth. Warwickshire is still using 0844 numbers
Their number is 0844 499 6932

Graham Gage says:
15 March 2012

My surgery, Portland Practice, St.Pauls Medical Centre, 121, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4DP is still using the contact number 0844 477 8964. I usually have to wait on line for 10-15mins per call. The calls are not recognised on my anytime free calls rate by my telecoms provider.
When I queried this with the surgery I was informed that it was the local PCT who made the decision.

Mary White says:
18 March 2012


TEL. NO. 0844 8151085