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GP using 0844 number - should this be allowed?


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My GP has recently changed the number to the surgery from a landline number to an 0844 number. This in my mind is blatant profiteering.


I had need to make an appointment and, unable to get a landline number, used the 0844 number. The surgery is 20 minutes walk away, which when ill is not that convenient to walk to, and as two buses are needed to get there, a day ticket costing £4.00 is needed.


So rather then paying £4 for one journey, I decided I'd telephone - certainly cheaper. You'd think.


Got my telephone bill today. Calling the doctors has cost me £5.58:eek:. Yes - a fiver to make an appointment. It's not even private - its NHS!


Now I can imaginge that there will be some elderly people or those on low income who are unwilling to phone the surgery due to the cost. In the end, being ill cost me over £20 - fiver for the phone, £4. for the bus when I went in and £14 for the prescription:mad: (and what peeves me is that technically I'm still a student but because I'm a mature student I'm deemed to be able to afford prescriptions.....):mad::mad:


How the hell can surgeries get away with using these numbers? what next? "Thank you for calling 999. Your call is important to us. Before we connect you through we would just like to tell you about the brand new easily affordable payment options for this call......"

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Our dr has done the same but there in big writing at the bottom it said - 'calls to this new number will be charged at local rate' so it is your surgery that had decided on it.


Make up some leaflets and hand them around the waiting room every time you go in and make a written complaint as well.

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Have you tried applying for help with the cost of your prescriptions- no matter what your age, if you only have a low/student income you should be entitled to free prescription. You would need to apply using a HC11 form (available on the net for printing off).


The GP telephone costs are appalling- complain to your local PCT. Try speaking directly to their PALS department.


PS Your local newspaper would probably love the story- "GP PATIENT HAS TO PAY £5.58 FOR APPOINTMENT".

Edited by emmaf01
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Guest forgottenone

This in my mind is blatant profiteering.


Completely agree. Disgraceful if nothing else. I have found locally that due to 'changes' and phone systems - one being you have to tell the receptionist WHY you want to see your own doctor before you CAN make an appointment - that my doctor is becoming harder and harder to access as a result.


However, it's profiteering as you say ... but looked at in another context, the way the NHS is going in general ie money before patients ... it's denying you that access by using such a number. Certainly for anyone on low incomes, vulnerable ... is it just another case of trying to ensure only those who can afford treatment get it? Or even afford to make the phone call without walking miles to a working phone box, where they will pay more to make a call if they don't have one at home.

Edited by forgottenone
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Guest forgottenone

Actually, there is a programme on tv right now about NHSPatients called 'Life and Death on the NHS.' :)

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There is much campaigning activity already underway on this specific issue and many discussion threads in the saynoto0870 Government and Public sector forum


There are useful resources for campaigners and others at the resource web site I have given with my registration. (As a visitor/new member, I cannot add a hyperlink)


Government action to address this could be said to be pending, following an evidence gathering exercise.


I will be happy to help with further information.

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No, it's not profiteering - someone has built a business model offering 'intelligent telephony' services and offered it to Doctors - for free. In return for providing a 'managed' number that delivers calls to the correct location based on the time of day/night, the service does have its advantages for all - except that it is the patient that is expected to pay the fee, which is wrong - but this is no different from firms charging you more because you won't pay by Direct Debit.


The solution is to swap Doctors to a practice that realises how unfair the process is, vote with your feet.

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7p connection charge and 5p per min on Virgin.

And there are several issues:

1. Each and every time you call, no matter when, you get an automated message (speaking very slowly as it happens) telling you that you have called the [name of surgery] and to please wait while they connect you to the surgery, a few seconds paused, then a message saying you are connected to the surgery and then either a message saying the surgery is closed or a list of options to chose from (why I don't know because they only have one person answering the phone anyway).

2. Invariably the surgery does not open dead on its opening time. so it might take a couple of calls before you get the surgery when it is actually open.

3. in relation to 2, you have to call dead on opening time to have any hope of getting an appointment within a reasonable time. I left it a few minutes and there were 18 people in the queue (which you only find out two minutes after calling and getting that damned message)


so the result is... companies making lots of money from what used to be a public health service! the thing that really annoys me is that my locality has a high incidence of low income familes and people on low incomes - the very ones most likely to need these services and least able to afford these charges.. And then there are mobility issues (one of the crappest bus "services" in the country run by the crappest bus company in the world).


I think in future I'll write using guaranteed delivery to the surgery to make an appointment - cheaper and probably quicker too......

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yeah have tried that. I am not subterfuging enough! Thing is I am quite happy with my GP (he's an old fashioned one) and the surgery generally so I don't want to move even if there was anywere to move to.

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  • 3 months later...

Am I right that by your explaination of the cost of this call, and that it is charged at a rate of 5p per minute, plus 7p connection charge (with Virgin) that it took you 1 hour and 50 minutes of sitting on the phone to arrange an appointment?

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His maths is right gyzmo...

7 years in retail customer service


Expertise in letting and rental law for 6 years


By trade - I'm an IT engineer working in the housing sector.


Please note that any posts made by myself are for information only and should not and must not be taken as correct or factual. If in doubt, consult with a solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.


Please click the star if I have helped!!

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Don't forget that there is a connection charge for each call. You have to call numerous times to ensure you get through as it opens. If it is open, it is usually too busy and you are told to call back (or go to A&E). When it is not too busy, hold times are anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes.

THEN you are lucky if you get an appointment. I didn't. Cue same thing next day. Still didn't get an appointment but advised to call back in afternoon. Same process again.


the total bill is an accumulation of numerous connection charges, plus the amount per minute (which for me is not per second - it's per minute).


So the answer is no - I did not stay on the phone for 1 hour 50 minutes - though it felt like it.

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There are a few things you could do:-


1. FOI request for the direct geographical number;

2. Complaint to practice manager;

3. Complaint to MP;

4. Involve local press;

5. Sign up for 0871 number to give to your GP, giving you a profit of 3p/min when he calls you.



If I've been helpful, please add to my rep. :)

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I have complained to the practice manager to no avail. I have alos suggested that they use the new 0300 number. Email was sent to press who said it is not newsworthy and my GP never calls me.


I think I will follow up on 3. I dont want to go down the route of 1. Surgeries are busy enough as it is, and I feel wrong in deluding them in paperwork.

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Many MPs have signed Early Day Motions as a way of expressing concern about this matter.

EDM 108 in the current session

EDM 1989 in the previous session


The issue was also covered in a debate last Thursday. There are links to the relevant contributions and some personal comments here - Debate on access to primary care 16 Oct 2008

There is a wealth of information on the NHS Patient Web Page

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  • 3 years later...

Since my comment (#23) above the situation has moved on dramatically, although, as birdieboys comment shows, implementation of the new regulations has not been effective.


Changes to the contracts held by NHS GPs were introduced with effect from 1 April 2010, prohibiting use of telephone numbers which caused callers to pay more than the cost of an equivalent call to a geographic number. In effect, this amounts to a ban on the use of all 084 numbers at present. With doubt surrounding possible future regulatory changes by Ofcom, the regulations themselves do not specify which number ranges this applies to.


Those using 084 numbers in April 2010 were given 12 months to change their arrangements. In most cases the preferred option is to migrate to the equivalent 034 number, as this enables retention of the features of non-geographic numbers and existing contracts for provision of telephone service from a particular provider. Calls to 03 numbers are charged at no greater cost than that of calling a geographic number - for all types of service and all types of contract.


Up to date information on the campaign may be best found via my "NHS Patient blog", which has links to other campaign sites. (Unfortunately I am prohibited from providing a direct link to my blog here - however it is not difficult to find using a search engine.)



----- Edited to remove political statements -----


Notwithstanding what could simply be a matter of semantics, I have welcomed Which? as a partner in the campaign and would be happy to welcome CAG also.

Edited by Conniff
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