Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

General Practitioners: Telephone Services

Health written question – answered on 27th November 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will take steps to ensure that guidelines to ensure that GP surgeries do not enter new contracts with 0844 numbers even if a geographic alternative is provided are followed; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Daniel Poulter Daniel Poulter The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The Department published “Directions to the National Health Service” on the use of 084 numbers in December 2009, stating that they may only be used when they do not charge patients more than the cost of an equivalent call to a geographic number. Further guidance was also published in February 2012, stating that it remains the responsibility of primary care trusts to ensure that general practitioner practices are compliant with these directions.

Does this answer the above question?

Yes1 person thinks so

No6 people think not

Would you like to ask a question like this yourself? Use our Freedom of Information site.

Annotations

David Hickson - fair telecoms campaign
Posted on 13 Dec 2012 11:40 am (Report this annotation)

See comment published under the title - "NO National Health Service" - http://www.fairtelecoms.org.uk/1/post/2012/11/no-national-he....

Ian G
Posted on 3 Jul 2013 10:00 am (Report this annotation)

"The Department published "Directions to the National Health Service" on the use of 084 numbers in December 2009, stating that they may only be used when they do not charge patients more than the cost of an equivalent call to a geographic number."

By 2005, campaigners had already established that there is no 0844 number that satisfies the above requirement.

Unfortunately the Department of Health initially took advice from elsewhere and for a short time appear to have believed the message that 0844 numbers are "lo-call" or "local" rate numbers. That's false and the ASA has taken action against such claims on multiple occasions since 2005.

Callers with inclusive minutes on their landline pay an extra 5p to 12p/min to call 0844 numbers as these are not inclusive. The vast majority of landlines are on this type of deal.

Callers with inclusive minutes on their mobile pay an extra 25p to 45p/min to call 0844 numbers as these are not inclusive. This covers all contract mobiles as well as a number of pay-as-you-go deals where the caller has a "calls bolt-on".

Callers using a pay-as-you-go mobile and paying a pence-per-minute rate for all calls generally pay an extra 5p to 15p/min to call 0844 numbers than to call 01 and 02 numbers.
One pay-as-you-go mobile network charges the exact same rate for 01, 02 and 0844 numbers.
One pay-as-you-go mobile network charges 5p/min less for 0844 numbers than for 01 and 02 calls. This is very much the exception.

Callers without an inclusive call plan on their landline in some cases pay several pence per minute less to call 0844 numbers than to call 01 and 02 numbers. This is purely because calls made to 01 and 02 numbers outside of a call plan allowance are charged at an inflated "penalty charge" rate. This, however, represents much less than 5% of calls made from landlines.

The vast majority, 90% or more, of all callers pay more to call 0844 numbers than to call 01 and 02 numbers.

The price differential for local and national calls made from landlines to 01 and 02 numbers was scrapped in 2004. It was replaced with a single "geographic rate". More importantly, most callers were moved to an "inclusive" call plan where each call of up to 60 minutes duration to any 01 or 02 number incurs no further per-minute or per-call charges. In contrast, calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers are not treated as "inclusive" (except 0870 numbers from some landlines, and 0845 from some BT landlines, since 2009) so these calls always cause the caller to pay more.

It is clear that 0844 numbers should not have been recommended or used at any time since 2004.

More than three years after the GMS Contract was altered to ban the use of these numbers, almost one thousand practices are still using them. Practices were still changing from 01 numbers to new 0844 numbers as recently as April 2013.