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Monday, 21 March 2011

Circular message to GPs using 0844 telephone numbers

Following my recent general message to GP surgeries using 0844 or 0845 telephone numbers, I have found around 100 cases of practices using 0844 telephone numbers listed on NHS Choices along with email addresses.

I have therefore taken the opportunity to contact them, using and referring to this published information.

Each briefing message is also copied to MPs serving the location of the surgeries and to the respective Primary Care Trust and Strategic Health Authority.

A copy of the text of the message, along with the full circulation, including the NHS Choices references, is published here.


  1. My surgery has recently installed the 0844 number. I contacted them with the government guidelines and received a reply that they did not breach the guidelines because the calls did not exceed the cost of a local call- even though I pointed out that from my mobile the cost would be 12.3p per minute. The surgery is Lane End, 2, Penshurst Gardens,Edgware, Middlesex

  2. Further to my previous comment- the actual name of the surgery is Lane End Medical Group. Their new phone number- installed in April 2011 is 0844 375 6867.
    The reply from the practice manager was that a call would cost no more that a first class stamp!!!

  3. Our Surgery in Wye, Kent has also installed ("upgraded") a system that means patients have to use a 0844 number. Many people have telephone packages that give them "free" local numbers. The surgery have issued the usual, long excuses but it still means that patients are left not knowing how much a call to their doctor will cost.
    There is a local website www.wyeweb.org that raised the issue.

  4. Anonymous from Wye

    Your surgery is in simple breach of its NHS contract. Clearly many patients will pay more to call the 0844 number than to call a "geographic" number - since April 2010, NHS GPs have no longer been permitted to select such numbers. Your PCT has a duty to enforce the terms of the contract which the practice holds.

    I will be speaking with your PCT. Please drop me a message to make contact - see action box at the top of the page.

  5. Currently my local Health Centre uses an 0844 number as follows:- Woodhouse Health Centre

    5 - 7 Skelton Lane , Woodhouse , Sheffield , S13 7LY
    Telephone: 0844 815 1992
    Fax: 0114 229 3099
    When I asked them about providing an 01*** number they referred me to Network Europe Group who state "Daisy (owner of Network Europe Group) is fully satisfied that GP surgeries and Dental Practices who contract for Surgery Line and Dental Line services are compliant with the Department of Health Regulations, and with associated guidance on the Regulations from the BMA"
    My mobile phone company charge 12.4 p a minute while giving me calls to 01*** numbers free
    while my home phone charges me 10.9 setup and 6.4 p a minute
    In this country we seem to have to pay for talking to a computer that keeps you on the line for an undetermined amount of time while charging you for it.

  6. Mr Ball

    I suggest that you contact your Primary Care Trust. It is they who are responsible for enforcing the contractual stipulations which your practice is breaching.

    Daisy Group and the BMA clearly fail to recognise that you and other patients are paying more to call the surgery than they would to make an equivalent call to a geographic rate number. That is what is specified in the terms of the contract between the practice and the PCT.

    These other parties are entitled to be ignorant of the matter; their opinions are of no consequence; it is none of their business. The contract is between the practice and the PCT is being breached and it should be enforced.

    If the practice has chosen to listen to misleading advice, that is its problem. If the PCT has done the same, then it must be corrected, as a matter of urgency.

    The practice may find that it is easier and cheaper for it to offer the facilities it has chosen to provide using a "non-geographic", rather than a "01" number. If so, it could easily migrate to a "03" number for which the call cost is no more than that for calling a geographic (01/02) number.

    As this would make no difference to the system provided by Daisy Group, other than who pays its bills (the practice rather than the patients), there is no reason why the practice could not switch its number - 0344 815 1992 is available for the easiest possible switch.

  7. My surgery is Richmond Road Medical Centre, 95 Richmond Road, Kingston-upon-Thames, KT2 5BT. They're telephone number for appointments is 0844 499 6611. You have to dial the moment the surgery opens at 8, because by 8:30, all appointments tend to be gone. Everyone knows this and so when everyone calls, we are all stuck in a queue, which costs many of us the world, especially those of us who have no choice but to use our mobiles with calling plans in which the 08 numbers are not included. It is a disgrace and it needs to be changed. I have tried complaining online but I'm just told to talk to the practice manager, yet I know that that will not change a thing. I am grateful for your help in changing the way things are done at the moment!

  8. Chelsea

    Because you (and many other patients) are paying more than the cost of an equivalent call to a geographic number to ring the practice, by this simple fact alone, it is in breach of its contract with the Primary Care Trust.

    The contract allowed a generous period of 12 months (from April 2010) up to a deadline of 1 April 2011 for the practice to make alternative arrangements. Changing to a 03 number (perhaps 0344 499 6611) was probably the best option, if there is a good reason for not using an ordinary number.

    Calls to 03 numbers are charged on the same basis, which covers inclusion in packages, as 01/02 numbers. Telephone companies allow their customers to migrate from 084 to 03 at any time and without penalty, even if during a long term contract. I understand that the system provider used by your practice "will not block" such migration.

    If the practice is persistent in its breach, then the Primary Care Trust must take the necessary enforcement action.

    If you (or indeed anyone else) would like to discuss specific tactics, then please contact me by email.


  9. Pewsey surgery in Wiltshire has just charged us £3.53 to hold for 11 minutes to make an appointment. Very glad to find this site and its sound advice. We shall be contacting the PCT and requesting a change to a contractually compliant call regime.

  10. NHS direct itself uses an 084* number so hardly surprising that GP surgeries are doing the same. My practice Ladybarn Group Practice in Manchester installed an 0844 number over a year ago. The practice manager just spouted nonsense about NEG claiming that it costs no more than a landline. Never mind that my telephone package is all inclusive except for 084* so it costs and obviously costs more from a mobile number. Have written back but don't expect ay changes.

  11. I am frustrated that I do not have a landline so I need to call Lane End medical group from mobile which cost me a fortune as I have a small child and my wife is pregnant. I do not understand why they change from 020 standard number to this 0844 375 6867 and saying that is a stadard charge from BT landlane. Something it needs to be done about this.


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