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Main Forum >> Freedom Of Information Responses & Requests >> NHS DIRECT  0845
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Message started by derrick on Jan 22nd, 2006 at 2:37pm

Title: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Jan 22nd, 2006 at 2:37pm
I have emailed NHS Direct asking, under the FOI act for the geo number, using question obtained from this site, and got the following response:-


I write in response to your FOI enquiry. I will answer the questions in the sequence you presented them.


1. Why do you use 0845 numbers?

The 0845 number was chosen at the start of NHS Direct and was a decision made by the Department of Health. The thinking behind this at the time was that people did not have such a dedicated service at that time and if they had a question of the type that was expected to be placed through the new NHS Direct system, they would probably either ring their surgery or the local Hospital. Both of these would incur a BT local call cost at that time and therefore it was not thought unreasonable to use the 0845 number. This would then provide a uniform access system whether people were ringing from urban areas or from more rural areas that could have meant more longer distance charges in some parts of England and also provide a unique easily recognisable number. The research undertaken before the start of the service had indicated that people wanted a short easily recognisable number and a service they didn’t have to ring national numbers for. The 0845 option provided the answers to these issues at the time.


2. What is the equivalent geographical number?

We do not have geographical numbers into our contact centres for the core NHS Direct Service.  We are working towards the use of geographical numbers alongside the 0845 national number in 2006 but we have to change some of our infrastructure at the moment to ensure that all our 22 centres can fully integrate with the passing of calls and medical records to less busy lines across the country. Until this is completed it is not possible to clinically safely provide this service.


3. What revenue do you receive per minute and in total from the use of 0845 numbers?  

NHS Direct gets no income whatsoever from the use of the 0845 number.  


4. Are you aware of the revenue collected by your telecom provider, from your callers?

We understand from BT that they charge their local rate charge for calls to NHS Direct.  However NHS Direct are not aware what charges other providers may apply to their subscribers.


5. Have you considered the revised COI guidelines?

We have recently spoken to the COI on this issue. The COI like ourselves are awaiting further guidance due out sometime in 2006 regarding the use of 0845 numbers. The COI assure us that the guidance out so far mainly refers to the use of income generation numbers by government departments and, as the 0845 numbers are used by many ISP providers, the guidance on these numbers has been delayed.

6. If  so, what conclusions did you come to?

NHS Direct does not make any income from the use of the number and as we are moving towards the use of geographic numbers, alongside the 0845 number, in a manner that will ensure clinical safety, we believe we are moving in the right direction.

7. Are you aware of ASA/CAP rules on the use of these numbers?

We are currently reviewing the messages that are given out about the costs of making a 0845 number call to the service. When this review is completed we will ensure that the right messages are printed on all out posters etc and displayed on our website/digital TV system.

8. If so, what conclusions did you come to?  

As above.


9. Do you realise that all calls (local/national) cost the same?  

The rate that telephone system providers charge for the use of their system differs from provider to provider. In some cases providers do charge the same rate for national and local calls, while others do not, or provide a mixture based on time bands. This is a system that has developed since the start of NHS Direct when all providers at that time had specific national and local rates.


10. Do you realise that 0845 numbers now offer no cost advantage to callers, irrespective of their location, only disadvantages?  

It has never been suggested that NHS Direct’s 0845 number offered anyone a “cost advantage” over anyone else. The system was put in place to meet the demands of the time which was only less than 9 years ago. While we have funding to make changes we do not have unlimited public funds to change the system as new initiatives are made by private companies. We have a system review in place and this has noted the need for change in regard to this matter and this change is currently being worked through. This will be completed during 2006.


11. Are you aware of the cost implications to your callers, when using 0845 numbers

We are aware that there is now a mismatch between various telecom providers in the costs they charge for their customers use of the service.

 I hope this explains the use of the 0845 system and the system changes being introduced.


John Dale

NHS Direct

The answer to q2 gives an indication that there will be a geo number coming soon, does any one have any further info? If they are in the process of doing this and eventually supply a geo number, it will surely put pressure on other government dept's to stop scamming us, will it not?
I have asked further questions re some of the answers, and they are to get back to me, as this request was answered within a couple of days of my request, and my second email answered as promptly heres hoping

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by trevord on Jan 22nd, 2006 at 4:08pm
Of course, a geo number would become superfluous (or at least less critical) from the cost viewpoint (but maybe not from the foreign-access viewpoint) of Ofcom were to force 0845 to be charged at geo rates.  But, perversely, that currently looks less likely than 0870 being charged at geo rates.


derrick wrote on Jan 22nd, 2006 at 2:37pm:
5. Have you considered the revised COI guidelines?

We have recently spoken to the COI on this issue. The COI like ourselves are awaiting further guidance due out sometime in 2006 regarding the use of 0845 numbers. The COI assure us that the guidance out so far mainly refers to the use of income generation numbers by government departments and, as the 0845 numbers are used by many ISP providers, the guidance on these numbers has been delayed.

This is not consistent with the CoI Guidlelines [gcc-second edition.pdf]:


Quote:
Cost to the citizen

3.50 Based on your primary target audiences, you should also consider the cost of accessing the service. Not only does this make sure that citizens on low income can afford to contact you, but it also encourages citizens to call by removing the cost barrier.

3.51 For telephone services, this involves decisions over whether to offer a geographical number or a non-geographical number such as 0800/0808, 0845/0844 or 0870/0871. Non geographical numbers have traditionally provided advantages in terms of intelligent routing, which helps manage call flows and can provide a better service to the end customer (although the more advanced networks can provide intelligent routing on standard geographical numbers and this should be explored as an option).

The following guidance has been put together with input from Ofcom.

3.52 Free services would be appropriate if you are targeting those who may be deterred by the cost of a call (for example, the elderly, young people or those on low incomes or where the nature of the call is confidential) and is particularly applicable if your objective is to encourage as many people as possible to call. For example, with counselling services, if the call is free it will not normally appear on the phone bill and as such a free call is very appropriate. (Note that some mobile operators currently do charge for free number calls.)

3.53 However 0800/0808 numbers can suffer from hoax calls, and you may wish to consider a geographic number or an 0844/0845 2.  For example, cost is likely to be less of an issue for businesses, so 0844 or 0845 may be more appropriate here.

3.54 0870/0871 numbers are not recommended, particularly when targeting individuals as by dint of falling call rates, these have become expensive to the caller relative to a geographical call, which can act as a barrier to communicating information that the citizen should have access to as a right. If 0870/0871 3 is being used then other alternatives – i.e. a standard geographical number (either in parallel with, or as an alternative to, the 0870/0871 number), the web or postal mechanisms should be considered and made available. 0870/0871 might be appropriate in a business
environment, but even here its use should be treated with caution.
.....................................

3.57 You should always clearly communicate the cost to customers on publicity materials (see paragraph 3.75) and this should not use any misleading terms such as ‘local’, ‘national rate’, etc.
.....................................

2 0845 in particular has been known as ‘local rate’ – however with increased competition in the marketplace and resultant changes in tariff structures, these rates will often be in excess of normal local rates that citizens might be charged on their package. 0845 (and 0844) costs through phone boxes and some mobile tariffs can also be expensive to the citizen and this should also be considered.

3 0870 in particular has been known as ‘national rate’, however this is misleading and 0870 can be very expensive to the citizen in comparison with the tariffs they would normally pay for a national call. Increasingly distinctions between local and national are fading in tariff structures anyway. 0870/0871 more generally has the added issue of revenue share (this can be available on 0845/0844 but is smaller, less universal and less perceived by the public). This can be viewed negatively by the citizen who may feel the Department is exploiting them, as even if the revenues are being utilised towards the costs of the operation of the service, this might not be fully understood.


-- Message continued below --


Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by trevord on Jan 22nd, 2006 at 4:09pm
-- Continuation message --

The above Guidelines make it clear that Cost to the Citizen is the primary consideration - not revenue share as they allege in Answer 5 (altho' the issue of revenue share and public perception should also be considered).

The CoI Guidelines also clearly do include guidance on 0845 numbers, their cost, and the manner in which their cost is described (see especially paras. 3.53, 3.57, and footnote 2).  They also makes it clear that these numbers are more suited to business access rather than private citizen access; NHS Direct is obviously primarily aimed at private citizens.

While any report resulting from the recent Ofcom consultation may recommend changes to NGNs, any such changes are not going to happen very quickly, so there is no excuse for not following the current CoI Guidelines at the present time.

Answer 4 from NHS Direct conflicts with CoI Guidance para. 3.57, which makes it clear that the 0845 call rate should not be described as "local rate".

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Feb 18th, 2006 at 9:46am
I have eventually received a reply re my further q's : ( I have listed the q's below in red)


In response to your further email I have now confirmed the current position. I will answer the points with the numbers you used on your email.

2) The numbers which present the calls to our call centres are numbers that are dialled from our central system. They do not go through the computerised system and if calls where made to these they would be presented at the local site without being sorted for the next available line. The NHS Direct system was built so as calls to the system would search for an available operator at their local centre and if there was not one available, the next available operator in the Region. If this was still not immediate the system would then search all national centres for an available operator. This system is devised to present calls to an operator as soon as possible in order that the caller can be prioritised and any emergency calls needing 999 response can be quickly diverted to the Ambulance Service. NHS Direct has a small percentage of such calls. This system is there to improve our clinical safety and to knowingly put calls into the NHS Direct system by other means would at this time be clinically unsafe.

NHS Direct is currently upgrading our systems to include new switches, computerised systems and recording systems and work progresses on this. When this work is complete the use of geographic numbers will be possible, allowing us to accept calls via both systems and placing them through the computerised searching system. When this is complete geographic numbers will be made available for use.

3) NHS Direct never has received revenue from the 0845 numbers. As stated previously the 0845 number was set up by the Department of Health as an easy number that vulnerable people can remember and that provided the same costs for all who rang when 0845 numbers were at a local rate cost.

4) NHS Direct understands that there are a variety of call charges for ringing 0845 numbers across the variety of means and operators. However changing systems takes time and money and the NHS Direct has been going through a period of review delaying decisions on the change in systems. These changes have now been agreed and are underway.

7) The publications that NHS Direct provide to advertise the service do not state local rate. This term ceased to appear in our publications approximately 12 months ago. However there may be some old leaflets or publication still available in the community. The current information printed says:

“Calls cost a maximum of 4 pence per minute from a BT Landline. The cost of calls from mobiles and other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge minimum cost per call.”

9) Not knowing the full range of current providers charges we cannot comment on this.

10) The local rate information is a historical factor in relation to calls to NHS Direct as explained previously. We do not now use this in our advertising.

While we cannot at the moment issue geographic numbers due to clinical safety, we will be able to once these changes have been put in place. We do have a legal duty of care to ensure the safety of the general public and to issue these numbers without the correct equipment in place would be a breach of this duty. I hope you appreciate our position over this and can see that we are moving to the position that you would prefer.

John Dale

NHS Direct

My e-mail q's
Thank you for your prompt and speedy reply to my FOI request.

However I must point out some inaccuracies:

2) There are geographical numbers for ALL 0845 numbers, (they"piggy back" geo numbers), the Inland Revenue told me the same thing a few months ago,but had to concede defeat and issue me with their geo number just prior to me referring the matter to the Information Commissionaire, so I would be obliged if you would supply that number for my area,North West Lancashire, or for that matter any locality as a geo number will not differentiate in cost.

3)  If NHS Direct receives no revenue from this number, then I can assure you that the number provider does,as all 0845 numbers are revenue sharing numbers, it just depends on the set up who gets the revenue.

4) BT, or any other provider for that matter, does not make any allowance for distances on numbers beginning 01/02,they cost the same from wherever in the country to wherever in the country they start and terminate,, no call provider allows 0845 numbers to be included in any paid for plans therefore meaning callers who choose to pay for an "all inclusive" plan are having to pay on top to access an 0845 number, calls to 0845 from mobiles and payphones cost up to 20p per minute as against a normal call that may be free on a mobile or 10p for 7½ minutes from a payphone.  I can substantiate all these costs.

7) You are also aware that by calling these numbers "local rate" you are also breaking the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (part III) " A CRIMINAL Act!

9) There are no providers to my knowledge that differentiate on distance for call charges, except under certain extreme conditions of which none apply to numbers beginning 01/02.



cont'd.........

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Feb 18th, 2006 at 9:47am
Cont'd

10) There is a statement to the effect that the cost is "a local call rate" this infers it is cheaper than a national call rate when in fact any 01/02 number has no different call costs associated to them re distance. 0845 numbers are "number translation services", "special rate numbers", "revenue sharing numbers" all stated on BT's web site.

I therefore request again the geo number that the 0845 number piggybacks, this number is available, and as a taxpayer said number belongs to me,so please disclose it.

I will await your response, but if refused the geo number, I will request an internal review, then if still no disclosure, a complaint/request to the Information Commissionaire






I will now request an internal review as the geo number is obviously there re the last paragraph of their reply.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by jamesbond on Feb 18th, 2006 at 1:30pm
With reference to NHS Direct, apologies for going off at a tangent, however I do not see the need for this service, simply because all you get is a nurse who uses drop down boxes with medical problems and is not qualified to the same degree, as a doctor or even a paramedic.  In other words, use 999.  If in doubt you shout for a doctor or paramedic.

James Bond

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by joe65 on Feb 19th, 2006 at 10:35pm
Use  NHS Neglect ,  to sue for malpractice and recover all your call charges.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Feb 25th, 2006 at 10:06am
I have now received a reply/refusal from NHS Direct as follows

Following the request for a review of your request and the information provided, NHS Direct is of the opinion that the information you are requesting, the geographical telephone number in order to access NHS Direct is exempt from publication under the following provisions:



Section 22: Information intended for future publication.



Section 38: Health & Safety.



Section 44: Is incompatible with any community obligation.



I can confirm that NHS Direct has this information and was in possession of the information at the time of the application.



The reason these exemptions apply is that NHS Direct is currently going through a rationalisation of its buildings and infrastructure including its telecom systems. The geographic numbers that currently apply to its buildings are direct numbers to those buildings and do not pass through any computerised control systems. The 0845 number is a computerised system that seeks the first available operator within the callers local centre but if there is nobody available at the time of the call it searches the operators in the centres of that region. If there is nobody available it searches the operators in the whole country. The system also compensates for when centres are closed for either training or because of evacuation.



Geographic numbers have none of these advantages at the moment and therefore if somebody were to dial in using this system and a centre was closed they would get no reply.



As there is a small percentage of calls that NHS Direct receives require emergency action and  are passed direct to ambulance services as effectively 999 calls any delay is not in the public interest.



NHS Direct has a program of upgrading its telecoms infrastructure and when this is completed and tested, sometime towards the end of 2006, we will be able to provide both 0845 and geographic numbers for callers with the ability to access the fully computerised systems. At that time we intend to publicise the range of geographic numbers available to users of the service. (Section 22)



Until such time NHS Direct believes that to issue the geographic numbers now would be clinically unsafe and could be dangerous to users of the service not using the 0845 system. (Section 38)



As Department of Health regulations on simultaneous disclosure requires NHS Direct to publish its disclosures on its Freedom of Information Publication Site at the same time as it discloses any information to individuals this would mean the general publication of the geographic numbers to the whole general public, which would increase the nature of the safety issue and ensure that somebody was adversely affected by accessing an inferior system. (Section 44)



The review was carried out by the Director of ICT.



While this does not supply the information you seek, I trust it explains the reasoning behind the exemptions that apply. If you contact NHS Direct towards the end of 2006 we hope to be able to provide you with a publication date.



Thank you for providing the information on our website. We have passed this on to our web team who thought that these issues had already been dealt with. I understand that these statements have now been amended. Thank you for pointing out this error.



John Dale

NHS Direct

So it looks like I will now have to complain to the Information Commissionaire, any pointers on how to do this?





Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by mc661 on Feb 26th, 2006 at 12:22am
It always annoys me when they quote an exemption then never put the full text in the letter as if you know all the exemptions off by heart.

22. - (1) Information is exempt information if-
(a) the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not),
(b) the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time when the request for information was made, and
(c) it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph (a).

How I read that is that, as they only decided the information was going to be published at a later date after your second email that section (b) has not been followed. So thats one point to you.

         38. - (1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to-
(a) endanger the physical or mental health of any individual, or
(b) endanger the safety of any individual.

Personally I can not see how providing you with an 01/02 number would endanger the physical or mental health of you, the operator or any other individual. Sure it might mentally hurt the NHS for those extra stats they made off you.
Safety they may have a case. If what they are saying is true that a GN might be passed as a 999 call then its true, but if its a true 999 call wouldnt they be calling 999 anyway?

44. - (1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure (otherwise than under this Act) by the public authority holding it-
(a) is prohibited by or under any enactment,
(b) is incompatible with any Community obligation, or
(c) would constitute or be punishable as a contempt of court.

This is interesting as I havent seen this exemption being applied before. I have spoken to my FOI QC friend and he also hasnt seen it being applied. Ask them for proof of the 'Community obligation'.

I suggest that you send a final letter/email to them saying you are now making a complaint to the Information Commisioner due to their failure to answer your question in full, quoting wrong exemptions and that you also know your full rights under section 50. In actual fact dont even bother contacting them, go straight to the IC.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by bbb_uk on Feb 26th, 2006 at 10:06am

mc661 wrote on Feb 26th, 2006 at 12:22am:
It always annoys me when they quote an exemption then never put the full text in the letter as if you know all the exemptions off by heart.

22. - (1) Information is exempt information if-
(a) the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not),
(b) the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time when the request for information was made, and
(c) it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph (a).
How I read that is that, as they only decided the information was going to be published at a later date after your second email that section (b) has not been followed. So thats one point to you.
These exemptions are not the 'usual' ones they apply.  I also agree that because they have said that they will provide geo numbers then this exemption unfortunately is justified.

Quote:
38. - (1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to-
(a) endanger the physical or mental health of any individual, or
(b) endanger the safety of any individual.

Personally I can not see how providing you with an 01/02 number would endanger the physical or mental health of you, the operator or any other individual. Sure it might mentally hurt the NHS for those extra stats they made off you.
Safety they may have a case. If what they are saying is true that a GN might be passed as a 999 call then its true, but if its a true 999 call wouldnt they be calling 999 anyway?
On the very few occasions I've had cause to call NHS Direct then most of the time they fob you off by telling you to visit A&E, or your doctor.  In this case, they are not transferring you so I can't see how withholding it under these circumstances is valid but if they might automatically transfer you to 999 then I'm not so sure if the reason for this exemption could MAYBE be valid but as mc661 stated you would call 999 yourself if you thought in anyway whatsoever that it was an emergency of somekind.  In fact, it would make more sense to call 999 rather than NHS Direct simply because your call would be answered very quickly and not held in a queue for NHS Direct to answer and then they just have someone ring you back in a few hours because they are busy.  I therefore believe this exemption was wrongly applied.


Quote:
44. - (1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure (otherwise than under this Act) by the public authority holding it-
(a) is prohibited by or under any enactment,
(b) is incompatible with any Community obligation, or
(c) would constitute or be punishable as a contempt of court.

This is interesting as I havent seen this exemption being applied before. I have spoken to my FOI QC friend and he also hasnt seen it being applied. Ask them for proof of the 'Community obligation'.
I agree with mc661 as I can't see what they mean by "community obligation" unless what they mean by community obligation is that to ensure that calls flow correctly and your call is always answered (albeit may be a while and at some expense to us consumers and then of course you get told that someone will ring you back anyhow).  If this is what they mean then this is very similar (if not the same) as the previous exemption where they mentioned "safety".

I'm still waiting on an IC decision from few months back and still get letters every now and then telling me that they are very busy and plan on getting to my complaint. Therefore, asking the IC may mean you have to wait until end of 2006 anyhow, which by this time, NHS Direct may have implemented their geo alternatives.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Feb 26th, 2006 at 10:36am
After looking at the I C complaints page and the rigmarole that one has to through, printing of forms, copies of e-mails, postage etc and the fact that there appears to be a waiting list and that the number will probably be available before the I C gets round to it I don't think I will bother.
I have not,and hopefully will not need to use the NHS  Direct, it was just me attempting to get a geo number for another scam 0845 number, as mentioned and already in  mind, if something major happens I will phone 999, or if not major use the doctor or local hospital.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by bbb_uk on Feb 26th, 2006 at 3:35pm
I would still complain to the IC because it exposes their lies and it is our right to know this information.  Remember that NHS Direct may not even go ahead with a geo alternative like they said when they realise the costs involved especially if there telephone infrastructure isn't capable of this now - which appears not.

I personally would go ahead with the complaint, I do however believe that if your referral to the IC was one of many (that we know about) then I'd say its useless then because this may backfire against us if the IC get repeated referrals from us over the same thing.  This can be seen now with the police being informed they can use, at the time, an un-used exemption clause (vexatious exemption clause).

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Feb 27th, 2006 at 3:18pm
I  have replied to their e-mail, but am not going to bother with the IC as it looks like it is going to take to long for a reply or any action.
I have posted the e-mail sent to them and their reply, I have copied some of the text in my e-mail from this thread.

Dear Mr Dale,
I am in receipt of your last e-mail dated 24th February 2006, and refute your exemption reasons.

Section 22
How I read that is that, as you only decided the information was going to be published at a later date after your second email that section (b) has not been followed.

Section 38
Personally I can not see how providing me with an 01/02 number would endanger the physical or mental health of you, the operator or any other individual. Sure it might mentally hurt the NHS for those extra stats they made off you.
Safety, if what you are saying is true, that a GN might be passed as a 999 call then it could true, but if its a true 999 call wouldn't they be calling 999 anyway?

Section 44
This is interesting as I haven't seen this exemption being applied before. I have spoken to my FOI QC friend and he also hasn't seen it being applied. please supply proof of the 'Community obligation'.

I am fully aware of my rights under section 50 of the FOI Act and if disclosure of the geo number is not made available to me in the next 24 hours,( you have this number you have admitted so), I will forward the complaint and all correspondence to the Information Commissioner's Office. This number belongs to me as a taxpayer.

Also whilst you say that a geo number MAY be available towards the end of 2006, this does not mean it will be especially when the cost associated with it are realised.

The following is from a reply that I have raised re this issue on a chat forum and is so very true:-

"On the very few occasions I've had cause to call NHS Direct then most of the time they fob you off by telling you to visit A&E, or your doctor.  In this case, they are not transferring you so I can't see how withholding it under these circumstances is valid but if they might automatically transfer you to 999  you would call 999 yourself if you thought in anyway whatsoever that it was an emergency of somekind.  In fact, it would make more sense to call 999 rather than NHS Direct simply because your call would be answered very quickly and not held in a queue for NHS Direct to answer and then they just have someone ring you back in a few hours because they are busy.  I therefore believe this exemption was wrongly applied. "



Thank you for your email.

The review that you requested has highlighted these exemptions as being relevant.

The numbers will be published when they are available and safe to use.

Whether you or other people decide to telephone NHS Direct or 999 is a personal choice. It is not uncommon for people to ring NHS Direct and get transferred to the 999 service. People often ring us with what they believe is a minor ailment only to be sent an ambulance on blue lights. Indigestion which turns out to be a heart attack and meningitis in children are two examples. People who ring us and have obvious symptoms for a 999 transfer do not have to wait for a nurse to ring them back so your chat forum person is mis-informed.

I don't know what you mean by proof of the NHS having a community obligation. NHS has a duty of care to provide safe services to the community. Geographic numbers are not a safe system in our eyes at this time.

I understand that you are going to refer this to the Information Commissioner and we await their correspondance.

John Dale
NHS Direct


Obviously they are not going to disclose the number, and they probably know that the IC is overloaded.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by mc661 on Feb 27th, 2006 at 3:30pm
personally I wouldnt have quoted the "QC friend" bit. But it seems that were getting no where on this.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by NonGeographicalMan on Feb 28th, 2006 at 1:29pm

derrick wrote on Feb 26th, 2006 at 10:36am:
After looking at the I C complaints page and the rigmarole that one has to through, printing of forms, copies of e-mails, postage etc and the fact that there appears to be a waiting list and that the number will probably be available before the I C gets round to it I don't think I will bother.


I have repeatedly challenged the Information Commissioner over their lack of an online complaints forms as being a total disgrace that is deliberately designed to obstruct the general public and that also causes them to fall down on their EGovernment targets.  They now say they will have online forms in a few months time.

I finally received the below reply indicating they will accept complaints by email as long as you replicate the information and questions in their downloadable PDF complaint forms.  I successfully filed by email a complaint against a uk mobile phone shop using an Indian call centre to try and sell mobile phone contracts with Vodafone to people like me who have long since been TPS registered.  The eventual reply was that although Millifone were in breach of TPS rules as there hadn't been many other complaints the IC wasn't going to take any action.  But this Indian call centre withholds their CLI and pretends they are Vodafone and it was only by persistence that I managed to trick them in to revealing their uk client was Millifone.

See below emails saying IC will accept emailed complaints:-

-----Original Message-----
From: Susan Fox [mailto:Susan.Fox@ico.gsi.gov.uk]
Sent: 16 September 2005 12:08
Subject: RE: Continued Failure of ICO's Office to Provide Online Regulation 21 Complaint Form

Thank you for your email about downloading complaints forms on our website. I completely understand your frustration that our site does not currently allow you to submit a form online.  I hope you will be pleased to hear that our website is currently undergoing a major improvement programme, and that an online complaints facility should be available to customers next year.  

As regards your problem with unwanted telephone calls, you can send your complaint to us by email if you prefer, to mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk.  Please provide all the information that you would have included on the form. I believe our Casework and Advice Manager, Caroline Monk, gave you some advice on this issue in her letter to you of 26 July 2005.

Once again, thank you for your feedback. We are always interested in our users’ views on the site, as it helps us to develop a better service.

Yours sincerely

Susan Fox

Director of Communications and External Relations
tel 01625 545 776
susan.fox@ico.gsigov.uk
www.ico.gov.uk

-----Original Message-----
Sent: 15 September 2005 16:12
To: susan.fox@ico.gov.uk
Subject: Continued Failure of ICO's Office to Provide Online Regulation 21 Complaint Form

Dear Ms Fox,

Further to my email to Richard Thomas in July (see below) I must now write to you to complain that although I have now received another International Withheld telesales call from an Indian call centre working for a uk mobile phone shop in breach of TPS regulations (this time I have tracked the firm responsible as www.millifone.com by asking the gentlemen calling where I could find out more information about the product he was selling) I find that there is still no online form on your website with which to make a Regulation 21 complaint.

I find it totally unacceptable that in late 2005 the Information Commissioner's office should not be able to get its act together to make an online complaint form available and that it instead forces the public to download a PDF form, print it out, sign it, find a stamp and trudge to the post box with it.  Also I do not see how the ICO can be complying with various egovernment statements by still only making available such a primitive and manually based Regulation 21 reporting regime.

More worrying though is the fact that most members of the public receiving such sales calls will think the TPS is the place to complain and so will submit their complaint to them using the TPS online form.   Then several weeks later when momentum has been lost the member of the public gets a letter from the TPS saying they cannot take any formal action and that the member of the public has to go to the ICO instead (why the

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Mar 22nd, 2006 at 10:30am
Despite my saying that I would not complain to the I O, after reading NGM repl, (14) I decide I would, and after sending an e-mail reminder yesterday received the following today:-


21st March 2006


Dear Mr ****


Your information request to NHS Direct.


Thank you for your correspondence dated 10 March 2006 in which you make a complaint about NHS Direct's decision not to release the information you requested.  


Your case has been allocated to one of our case resolution teams who will contact you as soon as possible to explain how your case will be progressed.  Due to the volume of complaints we are receiving at present it may be up to two months before you hear from us.

If you need to contact us about any aspect of your complaint about NHS Direct please be sure to quote the reference number at the top of this letter.  


Yours sincerely,


Customer Service Team

The Information Commissioner's Office


[b]
Also a copy of their e-mail to NHS Direct
[/b]


21st March 2006



Dear Mr Dale


Freedom of Information Act Section 50

Complaint from Mr *******

Information request made 12 January 2006


The Information Commissioner has recently received a complaint from Mr ************.  It is alleged that information was withheld inappropriately in response to the request of 12 January 2006.  We have enclosed a copy of this request for your information.  We have carried out an initial assessment of this case and deemed it eligible for formal consideration under section 50 of the Act.

The case will be allocated to a case officer who will contact you with further details of the complaint. Where information has been withheld because you (the Public Authority) have applied one of the exemptions in Part 2 of the Act, the case officer will need to have a copy of the information to judge whether or not any exemptions have been properly applied.  

The officer will not, however, generally wish to be provided with this withheld information in cases where you have chosen neither to confirm nor deny holding the information, where you have judged a case to be vexatious, where you have refused it because it could not be met within the appropriate limit or where the alleged breach of the Part 1 of the Act is delay in response.

We would stress that until you hear from the case officer you are not required to take any specific action. However, we would ask that you send us a copy of the information that has been withheld from the complainant where you are able to do so.  Please be sure to quote the reference number from the top of this letter.

We also emphasise that although we have assessed the complaint as being eligible, in that it meets the criteria set out in section 50 of the Act requiring the Information Commissioner to decide whether a public authority has dealt with a request for information in accordance with Part I of the Act, no specific decision has been made as to the individual merits of the case at this time.

Should you have any specific concerns please contact us being sure to quote the reference number from the top of this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Sharon Boot

Customer Service Team

The Information Commissioner's Office












Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by NonGeographicalMan on Mar 22nd, 2006 at 11:04am
Looks like they are taking this seriously given the NHS's 50 million odd customers.  Hopefully you may now get further with the NHS Direct.

However expect NHS Direct to be one of the first to get an 03 Countrwide number in in addition to its 0845 as, when and If this new class of numbers is formally approved by Ofcom.

Although Ofcom likes Light Touch if I was the Information Commissioner I would be screaming at the government that tougher rules to protect the consumer from telephone number abuse are required so as to prevent his office from being overwhelmed with complaints about 084/7 number abuses.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by trevord on Mar 22nd, 2006 at 11:43am

wrote on Mar 22nd, 2006 at 11:04am:
However expect NHS Direct to be one of the first to get an 03 Countrwide number in in addition to its 0845 as, when and If this new class of numbers is formally approved by Ofcom.

But they have a special short 0845 number 0845 46 47, so would they want a new 03 geo-type number unless they can also have a special number there?

Also, if their telecoms provider has provided equipment at cheap rates on the basis of getting a cut from the 0845 call charges (bearing in mind that NHS Direct say they receive no revenue), will they be free to move to a geo-rate number?

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Jan 11th, 2007 at 11:22am
I have just put a response re a FOI request on this board re the BBC  http://www.saynoto0870.com/cgi-bin/forum/YaBB.cgi?num=1159046898/0  and thought I would update this one as well, the 2 responses are below:-


[color=#0000ff]
Information Commissioner's Office

Promoting public access to official information and protecting your personal information

17th November 2006    
Case Reference Number FS

Dear Mr *****

Further to our recent telephone conversation I am writing to advise that I have now written to NHS Direct about its refusal to provide its geographic telephone number.
As you know it has applied three exemptions to justify its refusal to disclose the information you have requested and my letter to it deals with a number of issues surrounding the application of each of these exemptions.
I have asked it to respond to my letter within 20 working days and as soon as I am in receipt of its reply I hope to be in a much better position to consider whether or not these exemptions have been correctly applied.
I will endeavour to keep you updated as far as I am able to do so with the progress of my investigations.

Pam Clements
FOI Team Leader Health and Transport
Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF 1B25 545700 f: 01625 524510 e: mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk w: ico.gov.uk





Information Commissioner's Office

Promoting public access to official information and protecting your personal information

19th December 2006

Case Reference Number F3

Dear Mr ******

I am writing to inform you that as yet there have been no developments in the investigation of your complaint since I last wrote to you on 17 November.
I am still waiting for a reply from the NHS Direct and have today sent it a further letter requesting a response within the next 10 working days.

I will endeavour to keep you updated on any developments

Yours sincerely

Pam Clements
FOI Team Leader Health and Transport


Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF O1625 545700 f: 01625 524510 e: mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk w: ico.gov.uk



So nobody seems to take any notice of the ICO.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by Barbara on Mar 28th, 2007 at 11:40am
Maybe it is my imagination and maybe I am in the wrong thread (this is the nearest that came up when I searched) but I thought that, during last year, there was info posted on the forum that NHS Direct were promising to give geographical alternatives to the 0845 by the end of 2006.   Did I imagine this?  It would seem from the fact that there is an FOI from the end of 2006 that the promise was not fulfilled but I wonder if anyone else remembers it?

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by Dave on Mar 28th, 2007 at 12:48pm

Barbara wrote on Mar 28th, 2007 at 11:40am:
Maybe it is my imagination and maybe I am in the wrong thread (this is the nearest that came up when I searched) but I thought that, during last year, there was info posted on the forum that NHS Direct were promising to give geographical alternatives to the 0845 by the end of 2006.   Did I imagine this?  It would seem from the fact that there is an FOI from the end of 2006 that the promise was not fulfilled but I wonder if anyone else remembers it?

This is from the OP:


derrick wrote on Jan 22nd, 2006 at 2:37pm:
2. What is the equivalent geographical number?

We do not have geographical numbers into our contact centres for the core NHS Direct Service.  We are working towards the use of geographical numbers alongside the 0845 national number in 2006 but we have to change some of our infrastructure at the moment to ensure that all our 22 centres can fully integrate with the passing of calls and medical records to less busy lines across the country. Until this is completed it is not possible to clinically safely provide this service.

Is this what you are looking for?

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by Barbara on Mar 28th, 2007 at 1:48pm
Yes, Dave, thanks, that was it, proves I'm not completely mad.   I wonder does anyone have an update on that?

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Apr 2nd, 2007 at 11:00am
I have just spoken to the case worker at the ICO office, she has still not progressed this sufficiently as the office is extremely busy!!! although she has had correspondence with them and they,(NHS DIRECT), are now saying that the new system will not be in place until 2008 !!!

I was told that a similar question asked of the Scottish NHS 24 to the Scottish ICO was decided in favour of NHS 24 , under the health and safety exemption !

The decision is at this web page: -
http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/appealsdecisions/decisions/Documents/Decision048-2005.pdf

The decision date is November 2005, but the English ICO's office has look at the decision and I am told that whilst it will not influence their decision? it does have some similarities and she would welcome my comments,(as I would from members of this site so I can pass them on),

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by bbb_uk on Apr 8th, 2007 at 6:21pm

derrick wrote on Apr 2nd, 2007 at 11:00am:
The decision date is November 2005, but the English ICO's office has look at the decision and I am told that whilst it will not influence their decision? it does have some similarities and she would welcome my comments,(as I would from members of this site so I can pass them on),
That's a hard one that and I do agree that there are similarities.  I personally can't think of a way around this and on this occasion it maybe best to except defeat.  The H&S reasons they used for denying the underlying geographical number is new(ish) excuse but I can see how it is also true (or could be true) as well.  It's is a known fact that NGN can handle a lot more calls than a geographical can and this doesn't take into account the routing of calls to nearest call centre/PCT, etc.

I know it's not the news you're after but I can't think of any way of getting around this

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Apr 11th, 2007 at 1:27pm
bbb_uk,  have a look at replies #8 & #9, where I still think I have a chance

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Aug 1st, 2007 at 9:41am
Well I have finally got a decision from the ICO, and guess what? it goes in NHS Directs favour, although not 100%,
Here are the 2 main pages from  the decision,the info runs to 18 A4 sheets and actually believes the lies that NHS Direct put out re section 38 of the act,(Health & Safety).

Reference: FS500*******
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Section 50)
Decision Notice
Date: 30 July 2007

Public Authority:            NHS Direct

Address:                       Marlborough Court
                                   Sunrise Parkway
                                   Linford Wood East
                                   Milton Keynes
                                   MK146DY




Complainant:
Address:


Summary

The complainant sought disclosure of the geographic telephone numbers for NHS
Direct. NHS Direct refused to disclose the information on the basis that it was exempt by
virtue of section 22 (future publication), section 38 (health and safety) and section 44
(prohibition on disclosure). Following correspondence with the Commissioner it withdrew
the application of section 44. Having considered the complaint the Commissioner
decided that the information was not exempt under section 22. However he decided that
section 38 was engaged and that the public interest in maintaining the exemption
outweighed the public interest in disclosure. The Commissioner also concluded that the
public authority had breached section 1 of the Act by incorrectly claiming the information
was not held and that it had breached the requirements of section 17 of the Act by failing
to issue an adequate refusal notice.


The Commissioner's Role

1.    The Commissioner's duty is to decide whether a request for information made to
a public authority has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of Part
1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the "Act"). This Notice sets out his
decision.


Reference: FS500******                                              

The Decision

63.   The Commissioner has decided that NHS Direct failed to comply with section
1(1 )(a) of the Act by initially incorrectly claiming that it did not hold the geographic
numbers.

64.   Furthermore, the Commissioner has decided that NHS Direct has breached
section 17(1) of the Act by failing to specify in its refusal notice the exemptions it
was relying on and why it applied.

65.   The Commissioner has also decided NHS Direct has breached section 17(7) of
the Act by failing to provide details of its complaints procedure or explain the right
to complain to the Information Commissioner.

66.   The Commissioner has also decided that NHS Direct incorrectly applied section
22 of the Act.

67.   However the Commissioner's decision is that the information requested is exempt
under section 38 of the Act because disclosure of the information would or would
be likely to endanger the health and safety of individuals and the public interest
favours maintaining the exemption.

Steps Required

68.   The Commissioner requires no steps to be taken.


So I nearly got it in my favour, but at the moment they are winning, as I said above the decision runs to 18 A4 pages, and as yet is not showing on the ICO's website so I cannot link to it, I am  happy to forward it in an e-mail,( but that might have to be over several e-mails re how much my hrovider will allow over the net at one time), to anyone who would like to look at it and suggest, (in a PM, as they are aware of this site and this thread), anything I could put to an appeal against the decision, I have 28 calendar days to lodge such an appeal, also notice in the appeal details the contact number,(despite their "condemnation" in the decision of 0845 numbers by public bodies), their contact number is an 0845!!

Reference: FS500******

Right of Appeal


69.   Either party has the right to appeal against this Decision Notice to the Information
Tribunal. Information about the appeals process may be obtained from:
Information Tribunal
Arnhem House Support Centre
PO Box 6987
Leicester
LE1 6ZX

Tel:  0845 600 0877

Fax: 01162494253

Email: informationtribunakS^dca. gsi.gov.uk

Any Notice of Appeal should be served on the Tribunal within 28 calendar days of
the date on which this Decision Notice is served.
Dated the 30th day of July 2007

Signed ......^.l.t^P^y4^.....

Richard Thomas
Information Commissioner

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF






Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Aug 7th, 2007 at 12:46pm
The decision notice is now on the ICO's website http://www.ico.gov.uk/tools_and_resources/decision_notices/2007_07.aspx

Scroll down to the 5th from the top,( at this time on this date).

Case Ref: FS500108885

Date: 30/07/2007

Public Authority: NHS Direct


Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Aug 18th, 2007 at 11:17am

derrick wrote on Aug 7th, 2007 at 12:46pm:
The decision notice is now on the ICO's website http://www.ico.gov.uk/tools_and_resources/decision_notices/2007_07.aspx

Scroll down to the 5th from the top,( at this time on this date).

Case Ref: FS500108885

Date: 30/07/2007

Public Authority: NHS Direct




This link will take you straight to the D4ecision Notice,( PDF):-

http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/decisionnotices/2007/fs_500108885.pdf

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by Heinz on Aug 18th, 2007 at 2:34pm
I wonder what would happen if someone did a FOI request to the  Information Tribunal re its 0845 600 0877 number and they refused to answer?

Who would you complain to?

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Aug 18th, 2007 at 3:25pm

Heinz wrote on Aug 18th, 2007 at 2:34pm:
I wonder what would happen if someone did a FOI request to the  Information Tribunal re its 0845 600 0877 number and they refused to answer?

Who would you complain to?


Soon find out, I have just sent a FOI request to the Information Tribunal.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by SilentCallsVictim on Jan 30th, 2008 at 8:58pm
A HAPPY DAY IN LONDON

I can report on a happy day in London today, as a spectator watching redoubtable performances from four members of the forum in presenting the case covered by this topic before the Information Tribunal. The principle members, unfamiliar with proceedings of this type, presented strong arguments, often in very trying circumstances before a sympathetic, but demanding, panel.

The focus of the case has become distorted due to the two years that have elapsed since the original request was presented and significant developments that have occurred in the interim. Given that the three parties: the Appellant, NHSD and the ICO, each had different objectives and therefore approached the question of what was relevant differently, the case was hard to follow and must have been hard to conduct.

Whatever the decision, which will be announced in due course, these four heros of the cause have much to be proud of. Any further positive move by NHSD to get away from its 0845 number (as has now been promised by government) must, in part, be attributed to their efforts.

They may wish to comment themselves in detail. I make this posting simply to register the necessary praise, and perhaps thanks due on behalf of other members.

David


Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by derrick on Mar 7th, 2008 at 2:48pm
The Appeals Tribunal have finally ruled,(against us), in this matter, the full decision can be seen here;-

http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/Documents/decisions/DLawtonVinfoCommissionerandNHSDirect.pdf

~ Edited by Dave: Link amended

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by SilentCallsVictim on Jul 6th, 2008 at 4:32pm
Members may be interested to note that NHS Direct has stated that it would change to an alternative 03xx number in the event that the Darzi review (published last Monday) did not require it to change to a national three digit number (e.g. 888). There is no such recommendation in the report.

This, and other relevant issues are covered in a briefing document recently added to the "NHS Patient" resource website.

Attempts have been made to draw the attention of various parties to this matter. Other members may wish to do the same.

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by loddon on Jul 19th, 2008 at 8:57am
INERESTING!!!

BBC TV "Breakfast" has shown "NEWSWATCH" this morning in which there is discussion about their move to 0370 numbers.   See the link below to watch this online.  I also believe that this item may be repesated at around 08.45 this morning and again on Breakfast tomorrow.   The item is after half way through the Newswatch item.

During the piece Michael Scott of the BBC is interviewed and interestingly he says that the BBC wanted to make the switch from 0870 without "running up a bigger phone bill for the BBC".   He implies that there has been no cost, or additional cost to the BBC in this move and this has great implications for our campaign!!!    It indicates, for example, that NHS Direct are wrong to suggest that moving from their 0845 number to an 03 number would cost them extra.   Of course they might lose their revenue share but they have always categorically denied getting any revenue share and even went to great length to get BT Global Services to provide a written statement confirming that NHSD get no revenue share (hoist by their own petard?).    

This means that all the other Quangos and government departments cannot argue that they cannot afford to move to 03 because of the cost.   This entirely counters statements by the Contact Council that moves to 03 would cost them and provides us with a solid argument and evidence when we are disputing this matter with other abusers of 084/7 numbers.  

Interestingly, GPs always claim that they are making no money from their use of 0844/5 numbers so .... they could all switch easily to 03 numbers  ;) :-* 8-) :D ;D      



http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_7510000/newsid_7514800/7514804.stm?bw=bb&mp=wm&news=1&nol_storyid=7514804&bbcws=1


[edit]More on the BBC's change from 0870 to 0370 in this thread.[/edit]

Title: Re: NHS Direct use of 0845
Post by ew.walgrove on Nov 28th, 2009 at 7:17pm
Hi,  

Please see below the NHS Direct response to my Freedom of Information request which I made on Saturday 17th Ocober 09, NHS Direct responsed on Friday 13th November 09.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/21273/response/55719/attach/3/0845%20Freedom%20of%20Information%20response.pdf

Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by netbuddy on Dec 21st, 2009 at 7:42pm

mc661 wrote on Feb 26th, 2006 at 12:22am:
It always annoys me when they quote an exemption then never put the full text in the letter as if you know all the exemptions off by heart.

22. - (1) Information is exempt information if-
(a) the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not),
(b) the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time when the request for information was made, and
(c) it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph (a).

How I read that is that, as they only decided the information was going to be published at a later date after your second email that section (b) has not been followed. So thats one point to you.

         38. - (1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to-
(a) endanger the physical or mental health of any individual, or
(b) endanger the safety of any individual.

Personally I can not see how providing you with an 01/02 number would endanger the physical or mental health of you, the operator or any other individual. Sure it might mentally hurt the NHS for those extra stats they made off you.
Safety they may have a case. If what they are saying is true that a GN might be passed as a 999 call then its true, but if its a true 999 call wouldnt they be calling 999 anyway?

44. - (1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure (otherwise than under this Act) by the public authority holding it-
(a) is prohibited by or under any enactment,
(b) is incompatible with any Community obligation, or
(c) would constitute or be punishable as a contempt of court.

This is interesting as I havent seen this exemption being applied before. I have spoken to my FOI QC friend and he also hasnt seen it being applied. Ask them for proof of the 'Community obligation'.

I suggest that you send a final letter/email to them saying you are now making a complaint to the Information Commisioner due to their failure to answer your question in full, quoting wrong exemptions and that you also know your full rights under section 50. In actual fact dont even bother contacting them, go straight to the IC.


The problem is that the Data Protection Act is misused.

The DPA only covers individuals and not inanimate objects like telephone numbers.

So asking for something under the FOI and your being refused that information by misuse of another act calls for a serious complaint. You might get better response by going to your local MP who will have more clout and it gives you the opportunity to educate your local MP on this issue of the misuse of the DPA and FOI as well as the cost to the individual for calling these premium rate numbers. I know that o2 charge a hell of allot, a recent call to the DWP on a 0845 number cost me £7.60 and the call was not long, 15 minutes approx, which equates to about 50p a minute I was paying.

The major issue is "other providers" which require slapping in to order.



Title: Re: NHS DIRECT  0845
Post by ew.walgrove on Jan 2nd, 2010 at 11:01pm
Letter from Nick Hall Deputy Director dated 21 December 2009, on the use of 084 Numbers in NHS Bodies. Not that NHS Direct are exempt

Nick Hall, Deputy Director Letter

Directions to Strategic Health Authorities, Primary Care Trusts, Special Health Authorities and NHS Trust in England (with the exception of NHS Direct NHS Trust) which came into force on 21st December 2009


Directions to NHS bodies regarding cost of telephone calls

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