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NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers (Read 163,596 times)
lompos
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NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Sep 3rd, 2007 at 3:41pm
 
Prompted by a geographic request for Dewsbury District Hospital I found that all 4 hospitals in the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, as well as the trust headquarters, are on the same 0844 number which is charged at 5p/min at all times.

http://www.midyorks.nhs.uk/Contact+us/

There have been numerous threads about GPs installing 0844 numbers.  But NHS hospitals?????
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derrick
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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #1 - Sep 3rd, 2007 at 5:17pm
 
As the Trust H Q has the same number but also the geo number,  (01924 213850) I would suggest that number could be used!  And ask them why the hell are they using a rip off number!

I have just rang the 01924 number and it puts you through to the switchboard and they will transfer you to whichever hospital you want, but I do not know how long that will last, oh and they have been informed that the call cost is "local rate"  Angry
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« Last Edit: Sep 3rd, 2007 at 5:28pm by derrick »  
 
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lompos
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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #2 - Sep 3rd, 2007 at 7:29pm
 
You are right, they will put you through to any of the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust hospitals from the geog number. There is a separate thread in Geographical Request concerning Dewbury Hospital where I put in the geog number and I also added it to the database.

However, in this thread I tried to raise a point of principle. How on earth are NHS hospitals justified in giving out 0844 contact numbers which at 5p/min at all times are in effect premium rate numbers in all but name?

This goes against the basic principle of the NHS being free at the point of use even more so as in the case of greedy GPs who are, after all, private business people only tied to the NHS by contract. But the hospitals are 100% NHS!! Doesn't Government guidance apply to them?

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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #3 - May 5th, 2008 at 9:21pm
 
Press release from when they introduced the new number:

http://www.midyorks.nhs.uk/News/New+hospital+telephone+number.htm

<<
New hospital telephone number

22 May 2006

The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust is ringing the changes with the introduction of a new telephone system that will provide one main switchboard number for all calls.

From today (22 May) anyone calling Clayton, Dewsbury and District, Pinderfields or Pontefract hospitals will need to dial 0844 811 8110.

All calls to the new number, no matter where you are calling from across the UK, will be charged at local rates. Once connected callers, will be greeted by an automated service, which enables direct routing for those who know which department and member of staff they wish to talk to, and transfer to a switchboard operator for those in need of assistance.

Services manager, Angela Ferguson said: “Our switchboard operators currently handle around 80,000 calls every week. Many of the callers know exactly who they need to speak to, so don’t necessarily need the help of our switchboard staff. The new system will enable quicker, more direct routing for these calls. This should mean fewer people queuing to be connected providing an improved service for callers and improved job satisfaction for our operators.”

To help with the transition to the new number the Trust has been working closely with Cable and Wireless, who will be providing the automated service.

Martin Goodman, director of government and Public sector for Cable & Wireless said: “We’re keen to get things right from the start so that when people call the hospitals they get through to the right person or department as quickly and easily as possible. We’ve already been looking closely on the names of staff, so that we can programme the systems to take into account the different pronunciations callers might use.

“Also once operational, our high-spec technology will enable us to produce daily reports identifying any calls that we’ve been unable to connect, finding the cause and rectifying them. “

[…]
>>
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SilentCallsVictim
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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #4 - May 6th, 2008 at 1:33pm
 
The NHS Network website - shows four NHS Acute Hospital Trusts using revenue sharing 0844 telephone numbers.

Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust - 0844 811 8110 (see above)
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust 0844 8118222 (see this thread)
Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust 0844 822 0002 et al (see this thread)
and also South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust - 08448 113030.

In addition, it lists the following eight using 0845 numbers:

Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals NHS Trust - 0845 130 4204
Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust - 0845 111 4000
Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust - 0845 226 3000
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - 08454 222 222
Luton and Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust - 0845 127 0 127
Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust - 0845 155 8155
University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - 0845 155 5000
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust - 0845 402 4331


The relevant supervisory bodies have been informed. The relevant Trusts have been invited to explain how they justify and account for using funding from patients.

Whilst attention is paid to perhaps over 1000 GPs using revenue sharing 0844 numbers, bringing them back into compliance with their contracts will not be helped if they can point at NHS organisations that breach the principle of "free at the point of need" in the same way.
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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #5 - May 6th, 2008 at 10:18pm
 
Those trusts which give lame excuses for switching to 0844/5 should read this:

Source: Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Trust

http://www.dbh.nhs.uk/New_telephone_system_at_Bassetlaw_Hospital.asp

<<
New telephone system at Bassetlaw Hospital

A new telephone system goes live at Bassetlaw Hospital on Sunday 27 April.

The existing system, installed in 1987, is obsolete and is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. In 2006, a £400,000 capital scheme was approved to provide a replacement telephone system that would be reliable, resilient, flexible and compatible with the systems at DRI and Montagu Hospital.

The new system at Bassetlaw Hospital will provide a building block for the future strategy on telecommunications. It will allow the Trust to develop its strategy for converging the voice and data networks, to upgrade the Trust’s telephone systems with an IP-based network on all three sites, and improve resilience and business continuity.

[…]

The telephone number for Bassetlaw Hospital - 01909 500990 - will remain the same. There are no changes to existing extension numbers. […]
>>
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Hospitals make money on patient phone calls
Reply #6 - May 16th, 2008 at 9:49am
 
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article3941474.ece

Hospitals make money on patient phone calls 
THE TIMES  16 May 2008
BY David Rose


QUOTE

At least a dozen NHS hospital trusts are using “revenue-sharing” telephone numbers to earn money from patients' calls, The Times has learnt.

Some trusts have switched to numbers with an 0844 or 0845 prefix, which are up to 30p a minute more expensive to call than a standard local number. Hospitals can also receive a rebate on incoming calls by using the numbers, which one trust said was used to help it to meet “savings targets”.

More than 1,500 doctors' surgeries are using the more expensive numbers, despite ministers' declarations that patients should pay no more than the cost of a local call to phone their GPs. Calls to 0844 numbers cost 5p a minute from a landline and 40p from a mobile, although the exact cost varies depending on the tariff or package of the caller.

Doctors have claimed that their rebate of about 2p a minute on every call is used to cover the costs of improved telephone services, but consumer lobbyists say that health services are profiting unfairly from patients' calls.

Related Links on web ed:  [ GPs told to avoid premium numbers    AND  How to beat banks’ 0845 phone rip-off ]

In an e-mail seen by The Times, John Maddison, finance director of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, confirmed that the trust had previously received “a modest income” from its 0844 number.

The decision to switch to the number was made “reluctantly” to assist in meeting “savings targets”, he said. The trust, which serves a catchment population of 365,000, switched back to using local geographic numbers in January.

Other hospital trusts still using 0844 numbers for their switchboards, appointment booking and other inquiries include Mid Essex, Mid Yorkshire, Northumbria, and South Tyneside.

At least eight other trusts are using 0845 numbers. NHS Direct, the national health advice line, also uses an 0845 number.

END QUOTE

~ Edited by Dave: Hyperlink added to article
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« Last Edit: May 16th, 2008 at 12:46pm by Dave »  

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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #7 - May 19th, 2008 at 12:33pm
 
As David Rose pointed out in his article, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust also uses 0844:

http://www.northumbria.nhs.uk/page.asp?id=232940

http://www.northumbria.nhs.uk/menu.asp?id=258232

Quote:
Contact Centre


Overview
The Contact Centre provides a point of contact to support patients, GPs and staff to make outpatient appointments, coordinate emergency admissions, book operations and arrange bank staff cover for the Trust's 10 hospitals.

Since the opening of the Contact Centre in March 2004 the number of calls has steadily risen and now an average of 3,500 callers dial the Contact Centre on the lo-call rate number every week - 0844 811 8118

We are open from 8am until 6.30pm Monday to Friday.

The Trust's so-called "lo-call" number costs 5 pence per minute at all times from most landlines and who knows how much from mobiles and payphones.
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Re: NEG propaganda
Reply #8 - May 21st, 2008 at 12:39am
 
http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-breaking-news/2008/05/20/hospital-tru...

Hospital trust admits to telephone money earner

May 20 2008 Evening Gazette

<<
A Teesside hospital trust has admitted using a fixed-rate telephone number to make money out of patients.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust acquired an 0844 number two years ago so that it would have one number covering its three hospital sites. A trust spokeswoman said it generated about £15,000 income.

The number only became fully operational in June 2007 as the trust was coming to the end of a period of significant financial recovery and was discontinued in January this year.

In reply to a complaint, John Maddison, director of finance, said: “We reluctantly took the decision to have the number because it generated a modest income for us at a time when we had a significant savings target.”
>>

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Re: NEG propaganda
Reply #9 - May 21st, 2008 at 12:21pm
 
http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/2008/05/21/hospital-made-15-000-...

Hospital made £15,000 from patients

May 21 2008 by Marie Levy, Evening Gazette

<<
A TEESSIDE hospital has admitted using a fixed rate telephone number to make money out of patients.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust acquired an 0844 number two years ago so that it would have one number covering its three hospital sites.

A trust spokeswoman said it generated about £15,000 income.

The number only became fully operational in June 2007 as the trust was coming to the end of a period of significant financial recovery and was discontinued in January this year.

In reply to a complaint, John Maddison, director of finance, recently admitted: “We reluctantly took the decision to have the number because it generated a modest income for us at a time when we had a significant savings target to ensure that we could continue to provide safe, quality services to patients.”

The trust reverted back to its original numbers at the end of January this year following complaints from patients about the increased cost.

But it has been revealed that patients are still being charged if they dial the old number.

David Hickson of London has identified several hospital trusts that he claims are breaching the principle of the NHS being “free at the point of need” by making money out of the 0844 number.

Mr Hickson said North Tees has not completely phased out the 0844 number.

“You continue to receive income derived from patients as calls to 0844 8118222 are still being accepted, rather than being re-directed,” he told them.

Mr Hickson said he found the old number on web pages for NHS Choices search, NHS Choose and Book, NHS networks list of acute trusts, Radio North Tees and The University of Teesside.

“I also understand that calls to the 0844 number are still being solicited in materials published by the trust itself.”

Fixed rate telemarketing numbers such as the 5p-a-minute 0844 numbers generate additional income for businesses. Even small companies can generate thousands of pounds a year.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: “We have now contacted all of the organisations listed and informed them of our change of telephone number.

“We have also searched on Google and we are informing each organisation where our number is listed on their website that it is now changed.

“Where possible we give direct line numbers to patients, on patient information leaflets for example. However, as we go through the process of revising and updating leaflets, we will make sure that any reference to the 0844 number is removed.”
>>

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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #10 - May 22nd, 2008 at 8:14pm
 
Further to the press release from when they introduced the new number:

http://www.midyorks.nhs.uk/News/New+hospital+telephone+number.htm

The page has now been amended:

Quote:
All calls to the new number, no matter where you are calling from across the UK, will be charged at local rates*.

* Please note that this was correct at the time of going to press



Proof, as if more proof were needed that Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust didn't know what it was doing when it introduced its 0844 number comes in the form of a leaflet published in 2006 when it was introduced:

http://www.midyorks.nhs.uk/NR/rdonlyres/F3B05D98-3D06-4AC9-8916-1BC8847AF2FB/0/M...

Quote:
Advanced telephone system

In May 2006, we introduced a new telephone system to provide one main switchboard number for all calls. By having one contact number for all our hospitals, we are aiming to manage the large volume of calls we receive from patients and visitors in a quicker and more efficient way.

The new number has the capacity to take a large number of calls at any one time and we plan to include automated facilities so that callers are quickly directly to the appropriate hospital and department. Callers will also have the choice to speak to one of our switchboard operators if they require help or assistance. We are given a small revenue by the network provider of the 0844 number, which does not impact on the callers’ charge. This revenue is spent on improving and developing the telephone infrastructure overall for patients and visitors.
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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #11 - Jun 11th, 2008 at 7:15pm
 
Dave wrote on May 22nd, 2008 at 8:14pm:
Further to the press release from when they introduced the new number:

http://www.midyorks.nhs.uk/News/New+hospital+telephone+number.htm

The page has now been amended:

All calls to the new number, no matter where you are calling from across the UK, will be charged at local rates*.

* Please note that this was correct at the time of going to press


This is obviously worth a further complaint to deadlock stage with the NHS and/or the NHS Board and then on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if anyone on this site lives in the relevant part of the country.  I am not sure you could take it the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman unless you or a relative are an actual potential user of these services though.
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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #12 - Jul 9th, 2008 at 1:20pm
 
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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #13 - Aug 4th, 2008 at 12:10am
 
http://www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk/news/Hospitals-made-80000-on-calls.4347226.jp

Hospitals made £80,000 on calls

Pinderfield and Dewsbury rake in telephone cash

Published Date:
01 August 2008
By Don Mort

<<
A HEALTH trust has raked in more than £80,000 in the past two years from charges for incoming phone calls to the district's hospitals.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust replaced local dialling codes with a revenue-sharing scheme using 0844 numbers in May 2006.

The change meant the trust received a proportion of the charges – 5p per minute from a landline and up to 40p a minute from a mobile – from the network provider.

Now health chiefs have revealed calls to Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury hospitals have generated 'in the region of £82,000' since the change.

The figures, requested by the Express via the Freedom of Information Act, were described as 'indefensible' by the Patients Association.

Vice chairman Michael Summers said: "We really don't think hospitals should extract money from patients from phone calls.

"They are ill and this is just a tax on them. It is indefensible.

"There is no regulation on this and trusts are able to charge what they like. It affects patients and families as people often don't know how long they are going to be in hospital."

Thousands of calls are made by patients, friends and relatives to hospitals every week, the trust receives 0.0275p for every 10-second call.

It said the phone system was more efficient and benefited patients as the cash was reinvested in services.

Contact forms have been posted on the trust website so people can make appointments and inquires without phoning.
>>
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Re: NHS hospitals on 0844 rip-off numbers
Reply #14 - Aug 4th, 2008 at 1:01pm
 
idb wrote on Aug 4th, 2008 at 12:10am:
Hospitals made £80,000 on calls

<< ...
[the trust] said the phone system was more efficient and benefited patients as the cash was reinvested in services. Contact forms have been posted on the trust website so people can make appointments and inquires without phoning.
>>


The practice here is no different to that followed by other Acute NHS Trusts, at least one PCT and many GPs.

It is the attempt to justify raising money from patients accessing treatment, by suggesting that it is used to cover the costs incurred in providing that treatment which is extraordinary. What else does a NHS service providers do? I am not aware of any accusation of fraud on the part of Trust staff.

The question here is about the way that the money is raised, not about how it is spent.

There are some charges for NHS services that are sanctioned by parliament, e.g. prescription fees in England. These are however subject to exemption on the loose basis of the degree of need and the ability to pay. Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust grants exemption to patients who have access to the internet!

It it is a disgrace that, despite an evidence gathering exercise having been completed by the Department of Health, we have passed through the sixtieth anniversary of the NHS and the publication of the Darzi review with nothing being done to restore the fundamental founding principle that NHS services are delivered "free at the point of need".
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