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Premium Rate Calls to Doctors Surgeries

From Norman Hurst

Sunday, 10 February 2013

I have just been listening to a program on Radio 5 Live and a contributor said that about 1000 GP surgeries are still using '084' numbers and are charging premium rates to callers trying to book appointments.

This, apparently, allows them to update their telephone system for free by doing a deal with the system providers.

It was also said that in 2010 the NHS gave Group Practices a year to stop using premium rates for callers and that those who have not yet complied are in breach of their NHS contract.

Does anyone know if the HBGP 0844 number is Premium Rate?

From Andrew B

Sunday, 10 February 2013

I know it costs a fortune to ring it from a mobile!

The free to use saynoto0870 website however provides an 01422 number: (Am I allowed to post it?) 01422 888779 which I now use everytime I call.

It seems wrong that the surgery should profit out of our need to ring them!

From Mo Norwood

Monday, 11 February 2013

Thanks for that number Andrew. It's bad enough having to call at 8.00 and hold as it is - without paying so much.

From Mick Piggott

Monday, 11 February 2013

Dear Hebden Bridge Group Practice:

Please answer this one question which is of interest to the whole community:

What is the cost of calling you on your 0844 number?

We have a right to be told!

From Jenny B

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Thanks to AndrewB for the number. The Fair telecoms campaign say it costs 5p per minute from a landline plus a 13p connection charge, with a whopping 40p per minute from a mobile.

Being on hold can rack the cost of your call up to several pounds. Many people have only pay as you go mobiles. Friends tell me that call to a GP can use all of their call time credit and still not have been answered.
Our surgery have had over 2 years to change this. I would assume that the failure to not follow the law to do so is due to greed or being locked into a lucrative contract. I am going to email the Practice Manager to ask why they have not done so and why they continue to rip off those in need.

I also feel that our local councillors should be looking into this matter too.

From Megan H

Friday, 22 February 2013

I have tried the number from 'say no to 0870' in the past to contact HBGP. I had a very rude lady answering demanding to know where I had got the number from and refusing to deal with my queries, telling me I MUST ring the 084 number instead.

I also have to ring from my mobile as I am usually at work when the Drs reception is open, and it costs me a fortune!!

From Andrew B

Sunday, 24 February 2013

That's strange Megan, I have to call the doctors regularly and the number above is diverted through the normal service, I have never been questioned or had my call refused. If they were to refuse my call I would ensure they spent every spare minute I had refusing them as I certainly would never use the 0844 number.

From Tim B

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

I used the local number today with no problem or challenge, I'd recommend it. Last time it cost me over £2.50 from my mobile.

From Nigel L

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Give the SayNoto0870 website a try, it gives alternative geographical phone numbers for many companies who use 0500, 0800, 0808, 0842, 0843, 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers.

From Dave Lindsay

Thursday, 25 April 2013

I'm Dave Lindsay of the fair telecoms campaign. I am also moderator "Dave" in the SayNoTo0870 forum and an administrator for its database of alternative numbers.

Ofcom has recently confirmed that the "Unbundled Tariff" will implemented for numbers that start 084x, 087x, 09 and 118.

All such numbers provide a benefit (subsidy) to users which is the "Service Charge". Each user will soon have to declare their Service Charge alongside their number.

Each telephone call provider will have to promote a single "Access Charge" for calls to these prefixes. In any one case, the caller will pay the Access Charge imposed by their provider plus the Service Charge of the organisation they are about to call.

We are urging all customers, patients and shareholders of organisations that use these numbers to ask The Big Question:

"In the light of the Ofcom announcement of 15 April 2013, if you are to continue imposing a "Service Charge" on callers by using 084 numbers, will you be declaring it now or wait to be told to do so?"

See this blogging for a full briefing.

The Unbundled Tariff exposes the situation as it is at present. Today, call providers promote a single call charge for each prefix or sub-prefix, and these are "bundled" charges.

Users of numbers avoid promoting how much they benefit and instead quote the call rate of one, often atypical, call provider.

It is not clear how much the user of the number benefits by (the Service Charge) and it is not clear how much the caller's provider adds on (the Access Charge). We have long been saying that in order to crack innappropriate use of such numbers that who benefits from what needs bringing out into the open.

On the subject of NHS GPs, the contracts that they signed up to were changed in April 2010. It outlawed them from using numbers that cost patients more to call than it costs them to ring a geographic number. It also gave those who were already doing so one year to take all "reasonable" steps to see that patients paid no more than they do for a geographic call.

One such reasonable step was to switch to using the equivalent 034x number. The 03 range of numbers are non-geographic and are charged at no more than geographic rate from all types of phone service, whether it be a fixed line, mobile phone or payphone. This also means that inclusive or bundled minutes also apply. The 034x range is set aside for users of 084x numbers to migrate to, meaning that they only need exchange the second digit, 8, for a 3.

It is standard practice within the industry for telephone providers to allow this migratory path during the period of contract and without penalty. Despite requests to PCTs across England, no evidence has come to light that any provider of telephone systems to GPs deviates from the norm and imposes a penalty for switching the number during the contract.

From Dave A

Friday, 24 May 2013

Numbers beginning 0844 477 and 0844 815 currently have a Service Charge of 5p/min. This is set by the GP's original choice of telephone number. No caller pays less than this amount. These are NEVER "lo-call" or "local rate" calls. No network includes 0844 numbers in call packages, they are always chargeable.

Rather than stating BT's low regulated call prices "calls are 5p/min from BT landline, other providers may charge more", users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers will soon have to state the Service Charge that applies to their phone number. The Service Charge will vary from 1p to 7p/min for 084 numbers and up to 13p/min for 087 numbers and, the same as now, depend on which number was called. All callers pay the same Service Charge when calling the same number.

Your phone provider adds an Access Charge. This is ZERO for calls from BT (by regulation) and from Sky and as much as 10p/min from other landline providers (Virgin Media being one of the highest). The Access Charge is usually 20p to 40p/min from mobile phones and this is excessive.

The total call price varies according to the phone number called (mainly because the Service Charge varies according to the phone number called) and this means each landline phone network currently publishes a price list that runs to hundreds of pages. In future, phone networks will no longer state the total call price, but instead they will declare a single Access Charge that covers all calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers. It will then be easier to compare providers and in turn this might lead to a general reduction in the level of Access Charges levied.