back to article No more premium rate numbers for docs

The Department of Health has bowed to public pressure and will push for a ban on charging excessive rates for phone calls to GP's surgeries or local hospitals. The consultation received almost 2,000 public responses and over 1,000 from NHS staff and they were overwhelmingly in support of capping call charges. As a result the …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. EddieD

    "They won't cost more than local calls..."

    I haven't had a landline package that didn't include free calls to local numbers for nearly 2 decades. Any charge to call locally is more than I'd pay to a normal number.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Non-geographical numbers

    Whenever I am forced to call a non-geographical number the first thing I ask is: "Do you have an equivalent geographical number for this number because geographical numbers are free for me but I have to pay for any non-geographical number?"

    If the receptionist wasn't already snotty, she is after that. I think they hear that question rather a lot.

    I find this site is useful:

  3. Apocalypse Later

    The NHS - Free at the point of service

    Pay through the nose, all your life, then pay again when you actually need it, and still get treated as a charity case.

    The NHS is so renown throughout the world that it is being used as a nightmare example of what NOT to do in the health legislation currently bogged down in the US congress.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd forgotten

    what a disaster area the NHS has become. In the country where I live now I phone my doctor on his normal phone at no extra charge and I speak to my doctor, no rude receptionist handing out dodgy health advice and trying to prevent me seeing the doctor. I always see my doctor the same day. If I want to see a specialist, I find one or am recommended one by my GP and I phone them and generally speak to them and have an appointment within a week. Of course all of this would be the same day if there was a suspicion of cancer.

    When is someone going to sort this out in the UK? Surly one of the political parties could manage, after all the politicians here have managed it and believe me they aren't anything special :-)

  5. Gordon Ross Silver badge

    Oh no they don't...

    "Many hospitals and surgeries use automated phone systems, which depend on 084 numbers"

    Er, no. They have an automated phone system on a "normal" telephone number (01, 02, etc) then slap an 084 or 087 virtual number in front of it to make money from people.

    "The BMA also called on telecoms providers to include 084 numbers in their bundled call packages."

    Isn't that what the new 030 codes are for ?

  6. dunncha

    Now all we need to sort out is the NHS Car Parks

    £3.00 for 20 minutes in a NHS carpark is robbery and a disgrace.

    If the money went to the hospital you could maybe stomach it but it goes to a Private Profit making firm.

    Shame on Labour.

  7. Dave Edmondston
    Thumb Down

    Scope, please

    This story is, according to the BBC, only relavant to Englandshire. Any chance of updating the story to reflect this? It's defo not in scope in Scotland...

  8. Charles Smith

    Sob sob

    Most GP practices are independent contractors and not direct employees of the NHS. I have seen the financial figures and seen all of the additional cash and resources loaded into the GP Practices by the local Primary Care Trusts. Currently the GP's are looking to charge the NHS £15 per swine flu jab to cover their labour costs.

    The 08 number debacle for local surgeries is another example of their money grabbing from the public who have already paid the GP's handsomely for their services whether they are used or not. Having to sit in a phone queue and paying for the privilege is particularly irksome.

    Hosted PABX services could easily allow GP's to handle incoming calls properly. If the Telecoms authorities were really alive they should be forcing the GP's to pay back their illgotten gains on 08 numbers.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When are these faceless bureaucrats going to remember that the NHS is paid for by the tax payer, their customers, and _NOT_ some magical bottomless pit called the Government.

    We already pay for the buildings, car parks (remember that _we_ paid for them, not you,) cleaners (get some in that will clean the place,) nurses, (sorry but these ‘angels’ have slipped downwards since the 60’s / 70’s,) Doctors (Why are we paying for some of these clowns?) and managers (far, far too many bloody managers.)

    You DO NOT own these places, _we_ do. You and your employees may lease the buildings from the NHS, and you work exclusively for the NHS. But your customers are the ones that _pay_ for the NHS.

    Is this little fact too difficult for you to understand!

    Dear <deity> the NHS makes me mad.

  10. A J Stiles

    "local rate" ?!

    0845 numbers, when they were originally introduced, were supposed to be charged at the same rate as a local call.

    Nowadays, there is no such thing as a "local call" anymore -- even on a landline, it costs the same to call from Land's End to John O'Groats as it does to call Handsworth from Perry Barr. There is just one single rate for all inland calls. Yet, for some reason, companies are allowed to say these numbers "cost the same as a local call".

    Except, of course, they don't cost the same as a local call. And your inclusive calls often don't cover them.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NHS Car Parks

    If you think the hospital car park is too expensive:

    1. Use the bus or a taxi.

    2. Buy some nearby land and set up your own private car park that charges less and see if you can get rich, but don't be surprised if you fail because the land near a hospital tends to be very expensive.

    I'd really rather the NHS budget weren't used for subsidising private car journeys, particularly since the NHS is already subsidising private cars to a massive extent by having most of A&E dedicated to treating the victims of car accidents (or collisions or whatever we're supposed to call them now).

  12. Eponymous Cowherd

    NHS, Free at the point of use.

    Except for:

    Phone calls.


    Dentistry (if you can actually *find* an NHS dentist).


    Drugs not approved by *your* health authority even when approved by NICE (postcode lottery).

    And then, of course, there's they way they rip off patients for bedside services (phone, tv, etc).

    Still, the NHS *does* offer choice. Pay £££ to park, or die of cancer. You choose.

  13. CABVolunteer

    Avoiding what 87% of us have asked for

    Sadly, a hand-waving response with no action.

    The published results of the public consultation exercise states "A total of 87% of public respondents agreed that the use of 084 numbers should be banned". But the DoH response is *not* to ban 084 numbers but to issue spin:

    "3. The ban on the use of numbers charging patients a premium rate to call NHS services will allow a marketplace to evolve where 084 numbers compete alongside 01, 02 and 03 numbers, but where patients will pay no more than the cost of a local call. The ban means that GPs and other NHS organisations remain free to use 084 numbers, providing patients are not charged more than a local rate number. "

    What do they mean by a "marketplace"? Do we have a choice of using an 084, 01, 02 or 03 number when we ring our GP or health centre?

    How much the caller is charged for calling an 084 number is a commercial decision for the telecoms company, not the GP. Do members of the public have a veto on the introduction or retention of 084 numbers in the NHS if we say "I'll be charged more than the local rate when I ring this 084 number from my mobile-phone or VoIP phone service"?

  14. Anonymous Coward


    Apart from making money and being very inconvenient for the person phoning, what actual use are 084 numbers?

    0800 I can understand because they are actually free (unless you phone from a mobile and then they cost a fortune!), but 084? Do they serve ANY purpose at all?

    I wish ofcom would hurry up and sort this mess out, preferably by scrapping the 084 numbers.

  15. Steve Loughran

    NHS Car parks are optional

    You are free to not drive to a NHS hospital, you can therefore opt out of paying. If the hospitals did offer free parking, all that would happen is the car parks would be full all the time. Patients receiving long-term out-patient care that requires daily visits (dialysis, cancer treatments) can usually get rebates on all parking charges.

  16. Simon Langley

    I pay for 084 numbers as these are not bundled with my mobile price plan (unlike geographical number) so I try not to call them.

    The excellent has been very helpful and has almost always found a geographical number for me to use instead. The secret to getting hold of them is to say you are on holiday and say the the 084 number won't work.

  17. N2 Silver badge

    Pointless in my area

    No one answers the phone anyway, the GPs are all on the golf course & the only way to get an appointment is to go down & book one in person

  18. James 100

    Lies and spin

    If they permit any 084 number under this policy, they will be lying: no 084 number is as cheap to call as a local number on normal BT or other tariffs, and the reason is that every one of them is priced to pay the recipient a fee on top of the actual call costs. They are ALL premium rate, just quite cheap compared to 09 numbers.

    The policy should simply mandate that ALL numbers given out must begin 01, 02 or 03, unless they're genuinely a mobile phone number or freephone. No 0845, 0870 or anything else. As for calling for their 084 premium rate numbers to be bundled, why should the telephone companies subsidise their greed by paying them to receive calls the telco doesn't charge for itself?!

  19. Jason Hall

    @ Steve Loughran

    Are you serious?

    I started writing a long (and boring) diatribe about how stupid your statement was, but then thought nah. Not worth the effort.

    If you seriously believe that the car parks are not being used as a revenue stream you must be thick.

  20. Geoff Hirst
    Thumb Down

    Non-Geographic Numbers

    Like has been said on here, many phone packages incorporate free calls. These 08 type numbers are pretty much always exempt from these packages because the person you are phoning is getting a kickback on your call. It makes me laugh companies who use these 0870 number on their sales and support lines, personally I will go out of my way to avoid such companies.

    So, you call your surgery, and then find out that the doc you want to see can't see you for x reason. Also then you can't future book because they don't accept appointments in the future, this I think was a method by which the 'GP waiting lists' were 'Enron-ed'.

    How about another tack, If you make an appointment with your GP, you fail to turn up then you get a bill for the wasted time, maybe around £10-£20. This then goes against the 'health' account of your address, which means that no further appointments can be booked for that address until the account is paid. Failure to do so will result in same recovery actions as is possible with the great value council tax, deduction from salary, benefits etc.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Here we go again...

    "Apart from making money and being very inconvenient for the person phoning, what actual use are 084 numbers?..."

    Er, no. They have an automated phone system on a "normal" telephone number (01, 02, etc) then slap an 084 or 087 virtual number in front of it to make money from people.

    Here we go again...

    OK first up, BT don't actual charge these days for many 08 numbers..

    Nor do some mobile carriers, if yours does, well that's your carrier for you.

    Next up.

    It just point to a normal 01 or 02 number..


    Or in the case of our business can point up to 12 different numbers, depending on time of day / week, if a line fails, if one is overloaded, if we have to do a DR evac.

    Oh and if we change carrier we can change the relocatian in a couple of seconds instead of weeks or months, with 0 downtime.

    But people are free to dial our 01 / 02 . 03 / 07 numbers, we only have a bout 3000 instead of the couple of hundred 08....about 1000 are just about to change so you will have to change those in a few weeks.

    But if you'd rather do with the equivalant of DNS for Phones, feel free. Just don't complain when you have to dial 10 different numbers to get an answer on a friday night.

  22. John H Woods Silver badge

    @you don't need to park

    It costs less for me to drive my daughter to hospital in a 4.6 V8 SUV and back than it does for us to go on the bus one way. Free not to drive my @rse. And, hospitals charge for treating RTAs --- just ask your insurance company.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My surgery is a local number

    with a call queuing system. You just have to ring between 8:30 and 8:45 if you want any chance whatsoever of seeing a doctor that day, and only that day, because even regular repeat appointments are refused unless the doctor books it in themselves.

  24. John Robson Silver badge

    @Steve Loughran - NHS Car parks are optional

    "You are free to not drive to a NHS hospital, you can therefore opt out of paying. If the hospitals did offer free parking, all that would happen is the car parks would be full all the time. Patients receiving long-term out-patient care that requires daily visits (dialysis, cancer treatments) can usually get rebates on all parking charges."

    Yes - and while my daughter was in special care I cycled to the hospital every day. My wife however had just had major abdominal surgery (an emergency cesarean).

    The 4 (I think) bus journey would have been slow, and been very uncomfortable (especially waiting for each bus) in the circumstances.

    Yes we can get a rebate on the parking (at our "local" hospital ~12 miles from home):

    - Anything over £150 in 6 months

    - If you keep ALL car park receipts (which isn't displayed anywhere)

    - With a letter from the appropriate ward matron (or equivalent)


    - By cycling I managed to keep our bill to ~£160 - still ALOT* in ~4 weeks

    - I'm paranoid about receipts, but most people aren't. Why not simply have swipe machines or tokens dispensed in the wards?

    - Ward seniors have better things to do than write letters confirming each of the 4 wards we'd passed through in the 4 weeks in hospital (assuming the stages of special care are all considered one, else 6 wards)

    - Had we not visited each day, it would have been noted...

    - Anyone requiring long term (i.e. inpatient) hospital care needs visitors for their recovery. Granting a free parking ticket to each patient, valid for the duration of their stay, is hardly rocket science.

    * Without the cycling it could easily have been double or triple that...


    Surgery phone systems are generally shocking, but there is no competition available, you get a doctor where you can...

  25. TeeCee Gold badge


    1) Not everyone has a handy Bus Stop outside their house which offers a service to the local hospital (God forbid you might be going to a non-local one).

    2) Cycling to same invariably results in some or all of your bicycle leaving the premises some time before you do. This may have something to do with the penalty for bike theft having been reduced from a severe ticking off by a stony-faced constable to the requirement to sign something called a "caution" while sat in a warm comfy police station over a cup of tea. If you collect enough of these you can swap 'em for an ASBO and impress your mates.

    3) Land adjacent to hospitals may indeed cost a bit. An existing car park however costs f*** all, bar a bit of tarmac once every few years and that's what's being charged for.

    It's blatant profiteering. You used to be able to drive to the nearest station and take the train, parking for a nominal fee, but they've jacked up the parking fees there too. I wonder why?

  26. Paul Wells

    no email?

    Do people really still phone hospitals and clinics? Isn't email or messaging available?

    I just log into a secure website, and read any messages from the surgical team, and ask any questions I need. If I want to make an appointment that gets done on-line as well.

  27. GrahamT
    Thumb Down

    another problem with 084

    When we were in France at Easter my wife broke her arms. No problem getting treatment in France, but we needed to see the GP to get a referral to the hospital fracture clinic as soon as we got home. I Looked up the phone number on their website (no online booking) to find an 0844 number. It didn't work from France. There were no geographical numbers at all on the website.

    Strangely, I used to to be able to book appointments online when they had a geographical number. I believe this is a clear case of forcing people to use a revenue earning phone number

    In the end I had to phone my daughter to make the appointment.

    I pointed all this out to them when we went to the surgery. They showed me a geographic number for calls from abroad, on the surgery wall! Great when you are 1000 miles from the surgery.

    In contrast, the NHS fracture clinic was far better than the French hospital - more switched on staff, more modern equipment, more efficient systems. Shame the our GPs aren't as good as the French ones.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re Eponymous Cowherd

    Ditto feet

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Del-boy Incorporated...

    The ban needs to be extended to hospitals too. Today my wife paid £3 for a 5 minute call to find out how her hospitalised father was - what in immoral ripoff !!. Though probably small change when we have to park to visit him...

    But I suppose the millions in top NHS salaries has to be found somewhere...

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021