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NHS and 0870 (Read 26,420 times)
lompos
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NHS and 0870
Jan 21st, 2005 at 10:07am
 
My inner city GP group practice recently changed its phone number to 0870.

Can the Forum offer advice on:

a)
who is profiting from the new revenue stream: the NHS generally, the Primary Care Trust or the doctors/managers individually?  I have not asked yet but I am sure what they will say is that the money will go on practice improvements even though they receive funds from the NHS (i.e. the taxpayer) for maintaining reasonable standards. 

b)
Under the Freedom of Information Act any information held by a public authority is eligible for release.  Is a GP group practice a private contractor to the NHS or are they an integral part of the NHS?.  If the latter, can the FOI Act be invoked to reveal the geographical number underlying the 0870 number? Who does one apply to, the Primary Care Trust?

c)
The 0870 number is clearly causing hardship to patients, many of whom are old age pensioners.  When wanting to make an appointment this morning I was made to hang on for 8 minutes without the phone being answered.  For this experience I paid 64p, out of which BT got 40p and the GP got 24p - I got nothing except the music.  Can a case be made under the Human Rights Act?

I am quite incensed about what I regard as a shameful practice trying to profit from plight of vulnerable people and are determined to take it further.  Any advice on how to proceed would be gratfeully received.
Embarrassed
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firestop
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #1 - Jan 21st, 2005 at 3:59pm
 
See the thread "Quick complaint to your MP..." and start with that.
The more MP's are told about it the more chance they have to act on your behalf.
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kk
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #2 - Jan 21st, 2005 at 4:06pm
 
Taking it point by point:

a) the GP

b) ask the GP direct, a GP is covered by the Freedom of Information Act.  Any request must contain your name and address.

c) I would send a letter to your own MP, they will get an answer from a Minister.
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lompos
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #3 - Jan 21st, 2005 at 7:03pm
 
There is a big poster in the GP's surgery saying that:

a)
the change to 0870 was to improve service!!!!  Embarrassed  and

b)
0870 numbers are National Numbers, not Premium Rate Numbers (cleary wrong as BT's website also acknowledges)   Are they liable under law for the misinformation?  Embarrassed

Are they legally obliged to display the Premium Rate 8p/min charge for their 0870 number (and perhaps also set it against BT's 3p/min National Rate)?



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lompos
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #4 - Jan 21st, 2005 at 7:11pm
 
The following email was sent to the Patient Advisory and Liaison Service (PALS) of the local Primary Care Trust:

I should be grateful if you could offer advice as to whether NHS GPs are allowed to use premium rate 0870 telephone numbers as contact numbers for their patients. These telephone numbers generate a revenue stream for the practice concerned but may cause financial hardship to many patients.  It is also an incentive for the practice not to answer telephone calls promptly - the longer they keep the caller waiting the more revenue they earn.

Premium rate 0870 calls cost 8p/min which compares with 3p/min charged by BT and only 1p/min or less by various other service providers.  Typically the called party receives a profit of 3p/min from calls to their 0870 number.

By this means the practice would make a profit from patients beyond the fee they receive from the NHS for each registered patient. 

Expenses incurred by GPs in providing primary care to their patients are paid back to the profession in full either as direct or indirect reimbursement, so this cannot be an excuse for trying  to generate additional profit. 

I look forward to your prompt reply.
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bill
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #5 - Jan 28th, 2005 at 2:36pm
 
UNBELIEVABLE!
(CLICK THE LINK)
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« Last Edit: Jan 28th, 2005 at 3:43pm by bill »  
 
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Dave
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #6 - Jan 28th, 2005 at 2:40pm
 
There was an interesting interview on You and Yours today (listen here) with Alistair Campbell of Network Europe plc who provide these 0870s to surgeries. He says that these numbers aren't premium rate.

The main justification he put in favour of these numbers was that with the 'old system' with a geographical number, callers could be on hold for a while. This, supposedly, gets round that problem. Roll Eyes

Here is the marketing spiel from there website:
Quote:
NEG Surgery Line™

Two years in development - over a million patients using our systems - 96% of callers get through to their surgery first time. NEG Surgery Line™ has an ever growing presence in England, Scotland and Wales.

NEG Surgery Line™ is the bespoke telephony solution for GP Surgeries.

The revolutionary self-funding Telephone system for GP surgeries is no longer just a telephone system… With offerings for the hard of hearing, personal fax services, queue busting solutions in the waiting room and clinical indicator information generation.

2005 will also see the launch of the online forum and information portal for the ever growing family of extremely happy Surgery Line practitioners.

Yes it’s free — Sounds good already!
In the majority of applications, NEG Surgery Line™ is completely self-financing! — Want to know how we do it? For an information pack, please click here.
©2004 Network Europe Group Plc

See here.

With a sales pitch like that, what has any surgery got to loose?   Lips Sealed
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« Last Edit: Jan 29th, 2005 at 2:49pm by Dave »  
 
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Tanllan
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #7 - Jan 28th, 2005 at 3:31pm
 
Quote:
With a sales pitch like that, what has any surgery got to lose?   Lips Sealed

Integrity? Respect of patients? NHS support for ususal purchases - like telephone systems, mortgages etc?

And the usual regard for honesty. How can Premium Rate (BT definition) 0870 be cheaper that 1p per call?
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Dave
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #8 - Jan 28th, 2005 at 5:54pm
 
Do these cretins who run the NHS actually believe that this is 'free'?
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lompos
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #9 - Jan 30th, 2005 at 6:36pm
 
I have now writtent to the local paper:

The ...... Medical Centre, an NHS GP group practice, recently changed its telephone number to a premium rate 0870 number.  Each call to the practice now costs 8p/min to the caller out of which 5p/min goes to BT and the doctors make a 3p/min profit.

A prominent notice in the reception area states that 0870 numbers are National Rate numbers, not Premium Rate numbers.  This is blatant disinformation.  The BT National Rate is 3p/min for most of BT's customers and many people use telephone service providers that are cheaper than BT (e.g. national calls at 1p/min).

The income of many of the patients is a great deal less than that of the doctors.  The NHS is supposed to be free at the point of use yet here NHS doctors, for their personal benefit, impose a levy on patients who wish to contact them.

0870 numbers are also an incentive for not answering calls promptly - the longer callers are kept waiting the more revenue is generated.

An enquiry was sent to the Patient Advisory and Liaison Service (PALS) of the Primary Care Trust asking whether NHS GPs are allowed to use premium rate 0870 telephone numbers as contact numbers for their patients.  Their reply is awaited.
 
GPs are self-employed but get a salary from the NHS (£60-£70k).  Their expenses in providing primary care to patients are paid back to them in full either as direct or indirect reimbursement. There is no excuse for profiteering from patients.

Each 0870 telephone number has an underlying ‘geographical’ number – a number starting with 01 or 02. It may be that under the Freedom of Information Act the practice can be made to reveal their geographical number and also the amount of profit they will be generating from the 0870 number.
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lompos
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #10 - Jan 30th, 2005 at 6:50pm
 
Clause 483 of the contract NHS GPs have with their Primary Care Trust ( http://www.dh.gov.uk/assetRoot/04/09/22/39/04092239.doc) provides that:


483      The Contractor shall not, either itself or through any other person, demand or accept from any patient of its a fee or other remuneration for its own or another’s benefit-


483.1    for the provision of any treatment whether under the Contract or otherwise, or


483.2   for any prescription or repeat prescription for any drug, medicine or appliance,


Making appointments by telephone is an integral part of GPs providing a service/treatment to patients, it seems therefore that imposing a levy on patients for the GPs' own financial benefit contravenenes clause 483.

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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #11 - Feb 1st, 2005 at 2:52pm
 
An article from Leeds Today

http://www.leedstoday.net/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=39&ArticleID=920407

Ring in your symptoms at 8p-a-minute
Concern in village at GPs' premium phone line
by ALISON BELLAMY
A MEDICAL centre has caused concern in the community it serves by changing its telephone number.
Shadwell Medical Centre in north Leeds switched to a number starting 0870, which charges a national rate up to 8p a minute at peak times. The average cost for BT daytime call is around 3p.
Users of the Shadwell Lane centre say patients can often be kept hanging on as they use the automated service, offering options to get an appointment, test results or prescriptions.
The service was introduced in November in a bid to cut telephone waiting times.
The surgery does not make money from it, but call provider NEG Surgery Line says it does take a percentage as that is its business. It says six other Leeds surgeries use the service.
Shadwell Parish Council will discuss the matter next month. It says the service could be costly and confusing for ill older people who simply want to speak to someone.
The 0870 number has been historically used by call centres or businesses, but NEG Surgery Line says hundreds of GP surgeries are now using the automated service.
Telecoms watchdog Ofcom is to launch a crackdown on the abuse of expensive call centre numbers after a flood of complaints.
Customers in the UK spent £1.25 billion in 2003 calling 0845 and 0870 numbers - almost one fifth of all fixed-line revenues.
Ofcom proposes that 0870 numbers do not advertise themselves as being a "national" rate or 0845 numbers as being a "local" rate as this can be misleading.
The watchdog says competition between rival telephone companies has brought cheaper prices, yet rates for 0870 and 0845 numbers are unchanged.
Geoff Wilson, chairman of Shadwell Parish Council, said: "It can be extremely awkward for elderly people who may not understand the automated system and just want to speak to a real person.
"It is an issue which affects many Shadwell residents and people are concerned."
One patient, who did not wish to be named, said: "I know of one woman in her 90s who was very confused by the automated system.
"Everyone is talking about the number change, which happened a few months ago."
Nobody at the Shadwell Medical Centre was available for comment, despite repeated attempts by the YEP to speak to GPs, but Scott Russell of NEG (Network Europe Group) Surgery Line, said: "It is designed exclusively for GP surgeries and has taken years of research and development working closely with health professionals and a communications company."
"The service promises that all calls are answered within two rings. Out of hours, patients are put through to NHS Direct. It is faster and more efficient in the long run.
He said average call time had been cut from three minutes, 47 seconds to one minute, 59 seconds.
"Although there is a slight increase in the cost per minute, the call is finished far quicker with no substantial overall increase.
"Terms of service say GPs should not charge patients for treatment.
"If this implies that a patient should not have to pay to ring the surgery then surely an 0800 free-phone number is the only real option?"
alison.bellamy@ypn.co.uk

FACTFILE
HOW THE CALL RATES COMPARE
l 0800 - Free
l 0844/5 - Local rate, from 1p-minute up to 5p-minute
l 0870 - National rate average 7.5p-min peak/3.5p off-peak
l 0871 - Up to 10p a minute
l 055 - 5p a minute
l 0632 - Free
l 0700 - Up to 50p
l 09 Premium rates up to £1.50 a minute
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As from November 21, 2013, I no longer participate in the forum and am unable to receive private messages.
 
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Tanllan
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #12 - Feb 1st, 2005 at 4:29pm
 
Quote:
Out of hours, patients are put through to NHS Direct.

And that is an 0845 call - Well done NEG, making even more money   Angry
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bill
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #13 - Feb 1st, 2005 at 6:00pm
 
[quote author=idb  link=1106302022/0#11 date=1107269556]Scott Russell of NEG (Network Europe Group) Surgery Line, said: "Although there is a slight increase in the cost per minute ...... "
[/quote]
Scott Russell is a liar.

3p per minute to call any 01 or 02 number in the UK (BT rates) changed to 7.51p per minute to call an 0870 number ([url=http://www.bt.com/Pricing/pis_info.jsp?PRICE_OPTION=Residential/PIS_Specialised_Numbers/innertext/&showsub=PIS_Residential&showsub2=PIS_Specialised_Numbers&c_index=08]BT rates[/url], others charge more) is not "....a slight increase in the cost per minute....."

[size=32][color=Red]It's more than a 150% increase[/color][/size]

Oh, I'd just love a 'slight' salary increase like that.
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« Last Edit: Feb 1st, 2005 at 10:25pm by bill »  
 
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lompos
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Re: NHS and 0870
Reply #14 - Feb 1st, 2005 at 6:57pm
 
idb posted an article from Leeds Today by Alison Bellamy: 

"Terms of service say GPs should not charge patients for treatment. 
"If this implies that a patient should not have to pay to ring the surgery then surely an 0800 free-phone number is the only real option?" 

The logic is flawed.  By using an 0870 number GPs are generating a profit for themselves, i.e. they are "charging" patients in contravention of their contracts with the NHS.  If the surgery has a geographical number the patient only pays 1p -3p/min to BT or others but not to the doctors.

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