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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

NHS GPs using expensive telephone numbers - new database

(Updated - Thursday, 24 November 2011)

These notes accompany my database listing the GP surgeries using 084 numbers throughout the UK
(1,402 cases at the time of this update). I cover:

•    Why use of 084 telephone numbers is a breach of the principles of the NHS

•    The database

•    The mapped rendering of the database

•    Other relevant bloggings

084 telephone numbers used by NHS providers

These numbers provide financial subsidy to a NHS provider at the expense of patients (via the respective telephone companies at each end of the call).

ALL 084 numbers are subject to "revenue sharing" at rates which vary between around 1.5p per minute to around 5p per minute (including VAT). This is reflected in the "Termination Rate" paid by the call originating telephone company to the call terminating telephone company.

The manner in which the financial benefit is achieved by the call recipient may vary. It could be through reduced charges for telephone services, payment for a local switchboard system from an independent provider or as cashback.

It is for accountants and economists to determine whether such financial benefit is properly described as "income", "profit", "subsidy" or whatever. There can be no dispute that financial benefit is achieved in some way. (Claims by some NHS bodies that they allow their telephone company to retain this benefit without any consideration demand investigation.)

The way in which the cost of the revenue share is carried by the caller may also vary. Generally a telephone company will add the additional cost to the rate charged for a call to a non-revenue sharing number. Telephone tariffs are rarely that simple, but the telephone company originating the call will not hand over the revenue share as a "gift".

Apart from some perverse exceptions, the caller will pay more to call a 084 number than a "Geographic Rate" (01/02/03) number. These exceptions are cases where the caller suffers a "penalty charge" for calling geographic rate numbers outside the terms of their selected "Calling Plan". These cases are "perverse" because it is invariably cheaper for a telephone company to place a call to a Geographic Rate number than a 084 number.

Unless it can be shown that all those who call a particular surgery are subject to these exceptions and incur "penalty charges", then there can be no dispute that additional costs are incurred by patients as a result of the choice to use a 084 number.

The database includes a "Table of Call Costs" covering the major call providers in the UK.

The Database

The source data in the database was obtained from the information published on the internet by the respective NHS bodies. Each case has a link to the individual webpage published or referenced by the NHS body.

Each entry also identifies the constituency in which the surgery falls and provides a link to the respective MP / MSP / AM / MLA contact details.

The data is arranged by the responsible NHS Organisation - PCTs (Clustered) in England, Health Boards in Scotland and Wales and the single board for Northern Ireland. It is also grouped and totalled within the "Regions" of the UK - the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Clustered Strategic Health Authority areas of England.

Summary information is provided by "Region" and "Organisation".

For interest, the number of cases by Organisation, Call Type and Provider are used to provide "Top 20" tables.

A further summary shows the number of cases in each English parliamentary constituency, ranked by the number of cases and giving details of the MPs.

As the data is assembled using Google Spreadsheets, all may be readily copied and downloaded for additional custom analysis.

The "List view" feature of Google Spreadsheets may be used online to sort and filter the data.

The linked MAP

ZeeMaps is used to provide a mapped rendering of the same data. (N.B. ZeeMaps are supported by Google advertising to the benefit of Zee Source. My use of free online facilities is without sponsorship nor benefit.)

Each case is represented by marker, which when clicked shows a "bubble" giving the information as shown in the database, including the hyperlinks.

Isolating cases on the Map

The Region and Organisation sections of the database provide map views zoomed and centred for the item in question. Other cases within the scope of the view are however shown.

To show only the markers for a particular data value, the View/Search feature may be used. (N.B. For technical reasons the "Region" is known as "City", other criteria may produce unexpected results - search does not change the zoom and pan settings.)

To show only those cases in a constituency: - Use MP/MSP/AM/MLAs contains {constituency name}

To show only those cases for a PCT Cluster / Health Board: - Use Organisation contains {Cluster / Board name}

A more unusual case is demonstrated by the example which follows:

Other relevant bloggings

•    NHS Direct has caught up with mobile apps - but not mobile voice calls!

•    Resistance to the ban on use of 084 numbers by NHS GPs

•    NHS Reforms - Government says "PCTs must carry on with their work"!

•    084 calls more expensive than geographic calls for NHS patients

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