Patients assured over 0844 numbers

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PATIENTS across the district have been reassured this week that calls to their doctors’ surgeries do not cost more

than a local rate number.

A Horsham patient contacted this paper with concerns about his surgery breaking Government guidelines by requesting patients to call an 0844 number to make appointments or other enquiries.

NHS Sussex has made clear that the way these numbers are set up means they should not cost people more than a call to a normal landline.

A spokesman said: “All of our GP practices in Sussex have met their obligations under both the terms of the Government’s guidance and the relevant legislation relating to their contact telephone number.

“While some of our practices use non-geographical telephone numbers - often beginning 0844 - patients are charged a maximum of the local or geographical rate.

“Patients’ own telephone contracts may allow them cheaper, or even free, calls to geographical numbers.

“Our practices are aware of this and many have stated that they will take it into consideration when reviewing their telephone contracts.”

They added that surgeries often use the 0844 numbers because they carry other benefits for patients.

“Some practices choose to use telephone systems with non-geographical numbers because of the additional functionality they provide.

“They can eliminate the engaged tone and provide other call switching functions, helping them to handle the large number of calls they receive.”

Comments originally posted:

Comment: This is the same disingenuous nonsense we have been fed ever since NHS surgeries went over to 0844 numbers. Many, many subscribers now use inclusive packages which provide free calls to national geographic numbers. This does not apply to 0844 numbers which incur a separate charge. Therefore by swapping from geographic numbers to 0844 NHS surgeries are adding to the costs of their patients. (John Steele)

Comment: So if it will cost no more in phone call costs why not just have the old number and stop annoying the patients....simples (oborne27)

Comment: This article reflects a seriously confused and mistaken position being adopted by NHS Sussex. I understand that recently issued “Further Guidance” from the Department of Health is now being consulted and its position is being re-assessed. I hope that the County Times will shortly be able to report a more accurate and proper position being taken by those who are charged with managing the provision of NHS primary care services in the County. The “reassurance” referred to is quite simply false and mistaken. (There is lots of material on this topic to be read via my blog at http:nhspatient.blogspot.com.) (David Hickson)

Comment: NHS regulations require that callers pay no more to call a GP than calling a geographic 01 or 02 number using the same method.

These are the current call prices that the various providers charge their customers as shown on their respective websites about one hour ago.

Three mobile contract

01, 02 or 03 number: free in inclusive minutes.

0844 number: 20.4 or 35 pence per minute depending on the plan and never inclusive.

Vodafone mobile contract

01, 02 or 03 number: free in inclusive minutes.

0844 number: 35 pence per minute and never inclusive.

Three mobile pay as you go

01, 02 or 03 number: 26 pence per minute (even cheaper with a bundle, e.g.100 mins for 10 pounds).

0844 number: 35 pence per minute.

Orange mobile pay as you go Racoon

01, 02 or 03 number: 12 pence per minute.

0844 number: 40 pence per minute.

Orange mobile pay as you go Dolphin

01, 02 or 03 number: 25 pence per minute.

0844 number: 40 pence per minute.

Orange mobile pay as you go Monkey

01, 02 or 03 number: 25 pence per minute.

0844 number: 35 pence per minute.

O2 mobile pay as you go

01, 02 or 03 number: 25p a min for the first 3 mins a day then 5p a min for the rest of the day.

0844 number: 25 pence per minute.

O2 mobile contract

01, 02 or 03 number: free in inclusive minutes.

0844 number: 20.4 pence per minute and never inclusive.

Virgin mobile contract

01, 02 or 03 number: free in inclusive minutes.

0844 number: 41 pence per minute and never inclusive.

Virgin mobile pay as you go

01, 02 or 03 number: 26 pence per minute (16 pence per minute on Daily Bonus tariff).

0844 number: 41 pence per minute.

Virgin mobile Original pay as you go

01, 02 or 03 number: 21p a min for the first 5 mins each day then 6p a min for the rest of the day.

0844 number: 41 pence per minute.

The most recent DHS guidelines www.dh.gov.ukenPublicationsandstatisticsPublicationsPublicationsPolicyAndGuidanceDH_132809 specifically state the requirements apply equally for callers using landlines and mobile phones.

“NHS Sussex has made clear that the way these numbers are set up means they should not cost people more than a call to a normal landline.”

Calls to 0844 numbers cost more than calling 01 and 02 numbers. Those 0844 numbers are effectively banned for all GPs and have been since April 2010. (sgn)

Comment: Obviously the doctors are quite hard up as they have to charge people that can ill afford it extra to go and see them, the 0844 number has to be “piggy backed” on to a 01403 number so if the doctors aren’t ripping their patients off then the patient should be given the choice of what number to ring.

Several phone companies will pay a fee to the phone holder so they don’t have to pay for their phone service but can make money out of people ringing them, such good hearted doctors we have at some surgeries, fortunately my doctor doesn’t use this rip of service, sometimes one can find a ordinary number on www.saynoto0870.com a very good web site.

The phone package I have includes most calls except 0844, 09, 07 and 0871 numbers, are the doctors being greedy, well far be it for me to say but I leave that to you to decide. (Nebcop)