Extra phone costs are galling

Like your reader George Baker I too fail to see the benefit of having to use the 0844 prefix when telephoning Park Surgery especially after incurring £1.14 in telephone costs to make an appointment.

My first attempt was a telephone call to the surgery mid-morning to be told that an appointment could not be made in advance for that week and to try another day early in the morning (cost 44p).

I duly telephoned again this time at 8am only to be advised that the switchboard is extremely busy early in the morning and if at all possible to telephone at a later time? Naturally I ignored this advice and was then told that I had 25 callers in front of me.

Although the numbers dwindled quite quickly nevertheless that call lasted in total 11 minutes at a cost of 70p. Like other readers I have a telephone package incorporating calls to geographical or 0845/0870 numbers so incurring these extra costs with Park Surgery is galling.

I am in the fortunate position whereby I can afford these costs but to some people, especially if they have to telephone the surgery on a regular basis, it must be a burden. I am one the Friends of Park Surgery and I wonder if I should use my subscription money to fund any telephone calls I might have to make to the surgery in future.

LOES COEN

Lanark Close, Horsham

Dr Steve Fisher, Senior Partner at Park Surgery, writes: In response to patients’ concerns regarding Park Surgery’s 0844 815 15 11 telephone number the practice has made arrangements for a new telephone number to be available for those patients who wish to use it ie 01403 330266. As a local number this will be charged as per the callers’ package for local numbers with their provider, be it a mobile or landline. Callers using this number will join the internal queuing system as at present. In response to your reader’s comments, patients ringing the practice are held in a queue, but with our usual nine receptionists answering calls from 8am calls are answered as promptly as possible. We have recorded more than 1,000 calls being made to the practice on a Monday morning between 8 and 9am - a huge pressure on the system and the reason we ask patients to call later in the day if possible. The 0844 number was installed in 2007 in response to patients’ complaints regarding the difficulty in getting through to the practice. We were obliged by the PCT of the time to act on those complaints and actively encouraged by them to take up the 0844 number. There are more than 1,500 practices in the UK using an 0844 number and Park Surgery is one of four local surgeries with an 0844 number. Park Surgery is contractually bound to the 0844 number until August 2014 and will be investigating replacement systems at that time. Park Surgery with 23,400 patients is often criticised for being ‘too large’. We recognise the problems associated with our size and would like to close our list for a while so that we can consolidate our services to provide better patient care. Sadly, we are not allowed to close our list and have no choice but to continue to try to provide services for an increasing number of patients with no corresponding uplift in budget to support the expanding demand.
We are very proud of the Friends of Park Surgery who support the surgery in many ways including helping vulnerable patients access the surgery and by providing health promotion to our patients. We would be very sorry if your reader chose to leave the organisation.