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Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consultation (Read 195,263 times)
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Doctors' phone line use reviewed - Media reports
Reply #30 - Dec 19th, 2008 at 11:54pm
 
Remember, in Norfolk the councils and the police charge citizens to call them via premium 084x numbers.

Source: Norwich Evening News

http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/content/news/story.aspx?brand=ENOnline&category=N...

Costly calls to doctors could be banned

SARAH HALL
17 December 2008 15:00

Health bosses in Norfolk have welcomed a consultation which could ban the use of expensive phone numbers patients use to call surgeries.

The government has launched a national inquiry into the use of 084 numbers in doctor's surgeries which can cost up to 45 pence a minute.

In Norfolk there are three surgeries which use this number and up until now it has been up to the individual practice whether they keep this prefix.

But NHS Norfolk said it would not encourage the use of the numbers. Dr John Battersby, director of public health for NHS Norfolk, said: “NHS Norfolk is aware that some of practices use the 084 number and the total number which currently do this in Norfolk is three.

“GP practices are independent contractors and although this is a decision which practices may take, NHS Norfolk would encourage GPs to consult with their patient representative groups before considering installing such a phone system.

“We welcome the consultation launched into the review of the use of 084 numbers across the NHS and should we receive clear guidance following this, we will of course work with the practices who currently use this number in moving to an alternative system.

“NHS Norfolk will be responding in full to the national consultation by the closing date.”

In the past doctors have argued that the 084 systems enable them to offer a better service but health campaigners argue that using the more expensive numbers is against the founding principles of the NHS, which should be “free at the point of need”.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “The Department of Health made it clear three years ago that it is wrong for doctors to use premium rate phone numbers. The fact that this is still a problem is unacceptable.

“Calls to these numbers can cost mobile phone users 35p per minute. This is deeply unfair to patients. These charges should be scrapped, not reviewed.”

Last July some surgeries in the county were criticised for switching to the 084 dialling codes Costessey Medical Practice and Acle Medical Centre but surgeries claimed they did not charge any more than a local call which is about 5p a minute.

Earlier this year Norfolk Police were also under fire for changing to the 0845 phone number with concerns raised that people would be put off reporting crimes because of the expensive call rate.
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Doctors' phone line use reviewed - Media reports
Reply #31 - Dec 19th, 2008 at 11:59pm
 
Source: Healthcare Republic

http://www.healthcarerepublic.com/news/PHARMACIST/869701/Government-may-ban-prac...

Government may ban practices from using 084 numbers
17-Dec-08

GP practices could be banned from using 084 telephone numbers, the government has said.

The 084 code provides a number of functions not available with standard phone calls, such as a queuing system which allows callers to connect to busy lines rather than re-dialling.

But calls to the number are also more expensive than local calls. The extra income is shared with the organisation taking the call.

The government is now holding a 14-week consultation on whether to ban NHS organisations from using 084 numbers.

‘We know that some people value the additional services that 084 numbers can offer,’ said health minister Ben Bradshaw.

‘But others object to being charged more than the cost of a local call to access NHS services.

'For people on low incomes who need to contact their local doctor regularly, those costs can soon mount up.'

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said that he welcomed the consultation. But he pointed to evidence that 084 numbers have improved patient satisfaction, and noted that the government had encouraged NHS organisations to move to the new system in order to meet access targets.

‘We believe the best way forward is for the government to work with the telephone industry to make sure the companies that supply these systems move to local-rate call arrangements with NHS organisations,’ he added.
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Doctors' phone line use reviewed - Media reports
Reply #32 - Dec 20th, 2008 at 12:01am
 
Source: Kentish Gazette

http://www.kentishgazette.co.uk/paper/default.asp?article_id=38395

Teenager's bid to block 08 numbers

Kentish Gazette Thursday 18 December 2008

by Adam Williams

A TEENAGER has launched a petition to ban health centres from using 08 phone numbers.

Guy Mayhew, 16, of Plough Lane, Swalecliffe, decided to take action after his mother Sue was charged 8.51 on her phone bill, after being placed on hold for 85 minutes by Whitstable Health Centre's switchboard.

Mrs Mayhew, 46, was given an apology and a refund by the centre when she presented them with a copy of her phone bill.

Guy, an ICT student at Canterbury College and former Chaucer Technology School pupil, launched his petition on the Number 10 website earlier this month.

"An 08 number usually has a 10p connection fee, even if you don't get through and if you call the centre's 01 number, they redirect back to the 08 number," said Guy, who also runs community website www.swalecliffe.com

He added: "If I was to call an 01 number, it would cost less than 1p a minute with no connection fee.

"It's not really fair on older patients in this current economic climate, because they rely on their local NHS service.

"It's wrong to charge them this higher rate when they're struggling to pay utility bills."

Eastern and Coastal Kent PCT spokesperson Nick Evans explained the change to the higher charge numbers helps surgeries screen their incoming calls with greater ease.

"The general policy is that if a health centre is owned and run by the PCT, it should not be using higher-than-standard-rate phone numbers," he said.

"Independently-run GP surgeries, however, do have the right to use 08 phone lines and while the PCT does not endorse their use, we cannot ask GPs to remove them."

The health centre says the 0844 number was introduced at the Whitstable and Chestfield surgeries in direct response to a patient survey.

"We had received complaints from patients that they were not able to get through on the telephone at the extremely busy times," said practice manager Lesley King.

"Requests for a queuing system were made, so patients would know where they were and decide to either wait or call back later. We believe whichever phone system we use, we will still continue to get complaints due to the sheer volume of calls.

"This does seem to be a nationwide problem."

Guy Mayhew's petition is open until April 4, 2009, and can be accessed at petitions.number10.gov.uk/healthtelephone
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Doctors' phone line use reviewed - Media reports
Reply #33 - Dec 20th, 2008 at 12:06am
 
Source: Whitstable Times

http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/whitstable/Doctors-cut-cost-phone-calls/article-5553...

Doctors to cut cost of phone calls

Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 14:26

WHITSTABLE Medical Practice is looking to change its telephone system after Government calls to ban expensive 084 numbers.

Surgeries in Harbour Street, Whitstable, and Reeves Way, Chestfield, are tied into a seven-year contract after adopting the system - which allows its 32,000 patients to join a queue rather than hear an engaged tone - in 2006.

Calls to book appointments at either surgery can cost up to 40p per minute from mobile phones.

But practice manager Lesley King says they are looking for a way out.

"We are tied into a long contract but are trying to find a way out of it," she said.

"The telephone system was put in as a response to patient surveys and complaints about not being able to get through on the telephone at extremely busy times.

"Patients requested we had a system with queuing so they knew where they were in the queue and therefore whether to wait or ring off and call back later."

Lesley says the practice was assured calls would be charged at 4.2p per minute - equal to the standard BT rate

"You can imagine that with approximately 21,000 and 11,000 patients the surgery telephone lines will always be busy," she said.

"Mobile telephone calls do cost quite a bit more than land line telephones but we believe everyone who has a mobile telephone accepts this is the case.

"We still get people who firmly believe because it is the NHS that everything, including the call from their homes to the surgery, should be free.

"Since installing this system things have changed quite considerably with telephone providers offering free local calls and the ever-increasing patient demand.

"We believe, regardless of whatever telephone system we have in the surgery, we will still continue to get complaints because it is down to the sheer volume of calls.

"We have changed our working practices to ease this as much as possible and are at a loss as to what more we can do."
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Doctors' phone line use reviewed - Media reports
Reply #34 - Dec 20th, 2008 at 12:08am
 
Source: BMA

http://web2.bma.org.uk/pressrel.nsf/wlu/SGOY-7MDFCD?OpenDocument&vw=wfmms

BMA welcomes consultation on the use of 084 numbers in the NHS
(issued Tuesday 16 Dec 2008)

Commenting on the Department of Health consultation on the use of 084 numbers in the NHS announced today (Tuesday 16 December 2008), Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee, said:

“Telephone systems should make accessing a GP easier and also be cost-effective for patients; we therefore welcome this consultation on how to improve the current system.

“Where 084 numbers are used by the NHS there is good evidence that patient satisfaction has improved, with better and quicker access to services because of the additional functions within the telephone system.

“We believe the best way forward is for the government to work with the telephone industry to make sure the companies that supply these systems move to local-rate call arrangements with NHS organisations. After all it was the government that encouraged many GPs to move to 084 numbers in the first place to help meet their access targets, and many surgeries will now be tied into long-term contracts.”
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #35 - Dec 21st, 2008 at 5:27pm
 
Source: Hull Daily Mail

http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/news/Consultation-use-084-numbers-GP-su...

Ban on 084 numbers at GP surgeries?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008, 15:15

MINISTERS are considering a ban on the use of controversial 084 numbers at GP surgeries.

Earlier this year, the Mail reported on how the system, which charges patients up to 5p a minute from land lines and 40p a minute from mobile phones, was being used by 11 surgeries in East Yorkshire.

The system, operated by Surgery Line, has been branded unfair by patients and health watchdogs

Now the Government has launched an England-wide consultation to ask people whether they want to keep the numbers.
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #36 - Dec 23rd, 2008 at 10:28pm
 
The Patient's Association is on a list of prospective co-campaigners to become engaged in public discourse and promoting media coverage throughout the consultation process.

It was therefore of great interest to see one of its vice-presidents using his ready access to the media to promote an issue of concern to patients - http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/dec/23/hospital-superbugs-branson-mrsa.

The coverage however reports a suggestion that the NHS should emulate the airline industry. When one notes the following - http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/en/gb/customerrelations/contact_us/phone.jsp - this is seen not to be such a positive suggestion.

On the other hand, if the Patient's Association were to support the proposal for a ban on use of revenue sharing numbers in the NHS, perhaps its vice-presidents might wish to join a bandwagon in support. An announcement that a major airline had abandoned revenue sharing numbers to help encourage the NHS to do the same would not only be great publicity for the airline, it would also aid the campaign in respect of the NHS and beyond.

A point worth returning to once we have, I hope, all had a Merry Christmas.
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #37 - Dec 26th, 2008 at 3:21am
 
... But on Boxing Day morning we arise to find the following statement picked up by Google-

http://www.devonshirelodge.co.uk/telephone_system.htm.

Although fairly recent, and updated on 21 December 2008, to include a link to the NEG Statement, there is no clear evidence of its age. The timing of the number change will come to light in due course.

The statements about call costs (retained after an update on 21 December 2008, following the announcement of the DH consultation) provide strong evidence of how NEG Surgery Line is being promoted based on misleading material. I refer to the fact that VAT and the 7p call setup fee each applies to both calls to 0844 and other numbers on BT's most widely used residential tariffs (in common parlance, this is what would be understood by the word "standard"). The cost of calling from landlines, payphones and mobiles does vary considerably, for example many BT customers pay nothing to call a normal landlline number at various times. In all cases the new number is more expensive to call than the old.

I have never received any explanation of how calls can be answered more quickly other than by a change to the number of receptionists manning the phones, or to their procedures. To imply that patients can save money as a result of calls being connected (hence triggering charging) before they are answered, must appear absurd. Furthermore, when the cost per minute of a call is invariably increased, it will be interesting to learn of how the claim that any (let alone many) patient(s) pay less can be sustained.

The discussions that will inform public opinion during the course of the consultation will be interesting.
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #38 - Dec 29th, 2008 at 3:48pm
 
Source: Southport Visitor

http://www.southportvisiter.co.uk/southport-news/southport-southport-news/2008/1...

Two Southport surgeries in row over costly phone numbers
Dec 24 2008 by John Siddle, Southport Visiter

TWO Southport surgeries which charge patients up to 40p a minute to ring doctors could be forced to use cheaper local-rate numbers.

St Mark’s Medical Centre, Derby Road and Ainsdale Medical Centre may be banned from using potentially costly 0844 and 0845 numbers, which patients have to ring to book an appointment, obtain test results or repeat prescriptions.

MPs have launched a review to decide whether practices should be allowed to use a system which sees callers charged 4.2p per minute from a BT landline but 40p from a mobile.

Southport politician John Pugh said: “High cost phone numbers are creeping like a disease throughout the NHS and other public services.

“It is effectively a form of profiteering and it is highly inappropriate in the NHS, where people have no choice but to phone.”

Around 1,500 of England’s 8,000 practices are understood to use 084 numbers, which are not premium-rate but still costlier than a local call - 3.25p a minute.

Conservative councillor Brenda Porter urged both surgeries to revert to familiar 01704 numbers, which patients could remember easily.

The prospective Tory MP said: “If you’re sick, then making an appointment should be as easy as possible and cheap as possible. “

St Mark’s Medical Centre practice manager Paul Cheston defended the system, which puts callers in queues to prevent engaged tones and records all calls.

He laid the blame at mobile phone operators for the high cost of calling.

He said: “We do not charge patients 40p a minute to ring our surgery, particular phone companies do.

“If they use BT, it costs 4.2p a minute.”


But local healthcare campaign group CARES also demanded the town’s two practices revert to cheaper-rate numbers.

Spokeswoman Cath Regan said: “The NHS is meant to be free at the point of need so it is quite outrageous that they are making money out of sick people like this.”



Mr Cheston evidently believes that those telephoning from BT landlines will be VAT registered. Should expenses which are exclusive of VAT not be spent as part of operating a business?

How does the provision of contacting an NHS GP surgery figure in the running of a business? Is the NHS diversifying into making businesses better as well as individuals? Perhaps Woolworths should have been a registered patient at St Mark’s Medical Centre.
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« Last Edit: Dec 29th, 2008 at 4:00pm by Dave »  
 
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #39 - Dec 29th, 2008 at 4:16pm
 
Source: Harlow Herald

http://www.harlowherald.co.uk/content/hlwherald/news/story.aspx?brand=HLHOnline&...

MP warns surgeries over phone lines
09:11 - 27 December 2008

DOCTOR'S surgeries in Harlow are being urged to scrap phone numbers which charge patients more than a local call.

The Herald revealed back in May that some surgeries in the town had changed their contact numbers from a 01279 phone number to a 0844 number which meant residents who do not normally pay for local calls are being charged.

Harlow MP Bill Rammell has now written to all surgeries in Harlow which use the 0844 prefixed phone numbers, and the government, urging them to scrap the system.

The Department of Health is currently consulting on whether to scrap the use of 0844 numbers in the NHS.

Mr Rammell said: "I feel this system of making money from patients who simply want to phone up to make a doctors appointment is grossly unfair, and I am pleased that the Government are looking at options to change the rules. "The NHS in general and GPs have seen a huge increase in funding under this government. These phone number rip-offs are unjustified.

"I have responded to the government's consultation, urging them to stop this unfair practice and I have also written to those surgeries in Harlow who advertise revenue-earning phone numbers.

"GPs undertake vital and valuable work in our community, but I am urging them to reconsider their position on this issue.
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #40 - Dec 30th, 2008 at 4:36pm
 
Interestingly, St Mark's Medical Centre in Southport is trialing a new phone system called Patient Partner:

Quote:
St Mark's introduces a new telephone appointment system - test

St Mark's is currently trialling a new telephone appointment booking system called Patient Partner. The system allows patients to book appointments on a 24 hour-a-day basis via an automated telephone service, freeing up administrative time. The system is very flexible and the patient can call to make, re-arrange or cancel appointments at any time of the day. The patient can also be text with a timely reminder so they don’t forget their appointment.


St Mark's phone number is a 0844 477 Opal Telecom one, which seems to be used by those on NEG's Surgery Line.

Patient Partner is a service provided by Voice Connect. It mentions case study surgeries on its website, and they use different types of phone numbers:

A PDF brochure is available from Ocean Telecom here.
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #41 - Jan 1st, 2009 at 8:19pm
 
The interview on BBC Breakfast on the morning of 16 December with an NEG representative and a campaigner is online here.
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #42 - Jan 1st, 2009 at 8:32pm
 
Source: Cornwall Conservatives

http://www.cornwallconservatives.com/index.php?sectionid=3&pagenumber=460

Campaigner welcomes consultation over use of 0844 telephone numbers for doctors’ surgeries

A CAMPAIGNER has welcomed the recent announcement that a consultation into the use of the controversial ‘Surgery Line” telephone system is to be held.

Sheryll Murray has spoken of her support for the public consultation over the use of expensive 0844 telephone numbers by GPs and healthcare providers.

Sheryll said she hoped the consultation exercise would highlight the alarming issues many patients had faced after surgeries refused to provide them with cheaper, local telephone numbers.

Earlier this year, Sheryll issued calls for doctor’s surgeries across South East Cornwall to make public their local direct dial telephone numbers for patients’ use, rather then rely on using the costly 0844 telephone numbers.

As part of those calls, she put forward proposals that the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT) should make is compulsory for all GPs to publish the local telephone number - in addition to the 0844 number – in a report submitted to its select committee.

In May, the PCT informed Cornwall County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee that it had formulated a three-point action plan over the issue – which included requesting GP surgeries to offer a choice of either using the 0844 or local telephone numbers to patients.

However, since then Sheryll has received a number of complaints from patients that some surgeries in South East Cornwall have refused to provide them with the cheaper, local numbers.

Now, she is urging anyone who has faced such difficulties to take part in a public consultation exercise over the issue, which runs until March 31st 2009.

Sheryll, the Conservative Prospective MP for South East Cornwall, said: “I would urge all patients who are unhappy with the use of these numbers by their surgery or other healthcare provider to respond to the consultation.

“I will be sending a full report on my work over the past year to the Dept of Health.

“Many GP surgeries entered in to contracts with telephone service providers in good faith and if the Minister concludes that the use of these numbers must be stopped, he must ensure that any financial compensation for breaking contracts with telephone service providers is not at the expense of patient care or the GP practices.”
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #43 - Jan 1st, 2009 at 8:50pm
 
Source: BMA Cymru Wales Blog

http://bmacymruwales.blogspot.com/2008/12/bma-welcomes-consultation-on-use-of-08...

BMA welcomes consultation on the use of 084 numbers in the NHS
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The announcement by the Department of Health that it's to launch a consultation on the use of 084 numbers by GP surgeries should be broadly welcomed.

The whole point of using phones to contact a GP, is to make it easier for people to get in touch with surgeries. But it should also be a cost-effective system for patients.

There is strong evidence that patient satisfaction has improved where the 084 numbers are used, with better and quicker access to services, because these telephone systems have added functions. GPs do not in any way want to profit from patients. But perhaps the public may think the added convenience these numbers provide, make the (usually small) additional cost worth it.

Let's not forget as well, that GPs were encouraged to switch their numbers in the first place to ensure better access for patients. And it’s not just GP surgeries which use these numbers, NHS Trusts do as well.

As the DoH has decided this issue now needs addressing, maybe it's time the Welsh Assembly Government did the same, so the Welsh public aren't paying more than those across the border, to get a GP appointment.

Posted by Richard Lewis at 15:32

[Richard Lewis is the Welsh Secretary of the BMA]


You may remember that the Welsh Assembly Government is reviewing the use of these numbers:

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health-news/2008/07/13/patients-being-ripped-o...
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Re: Doctors' phone line use reviewed - DH consulta
Reply #44 - Jan 5th, 2009 at 3:50pm
 
I have heard today that there will shortly be another hero to add to the 0300 list.

NHS Blood and Transplant, which comprises what was the National Blood Service and UK Transplant, will shortly be announcing that the following two numbers will be replaced by 0300 123 xxxx.

Organ Donor Line - 0845 6060 400
Blood Donor Line - 0845 7 711 711

A final decision on whether to adopt a single number for the combined body (the preferred option), or to retain two separate numbers, is awaited. Once this has been made the change will be announced with due publicly.

When this can be announced it will add weight to the consultation process. In the meantime there is no need to apply pressure to this body, nor can it be used as an example of those who will be retaining 0845 numbers.

(This change has actually been in the pipeline for a very long time. Public bodies do move very slowly; sometimes so slowly that it is difficult to believe that they are moving at all.)
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