Meeting over surgery premium rate line

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: The practice along Handsworth Avenue The practice along Handsworth Avenue

The manager of a doctor's surgery is to meet with its telecom provider to discuss terminating a costly premium rate contract.

It was releaved last month that patients' calls to Handsworth Medical Practice were subsidising the practice in Handsworth Avenue's telephone costs.

The practice introduced the premium rate line in March 2012 to replace an outdated system, signing a five-year contract with telecoms provider NEG, now known as Surgery Line.

Through the use of the 0844 number, the practice makes nearly £500 a month which is used to offset the monthly £1650 phone bill.

To date, it is estimated the practice has made around £10,000, although this may be set to change.  

Practice Manager Josie Camplin has said she asked provider Surgery Line for a settlement figure and a meeting is scheduled for March 10.

The surgery claim it was 'misled' about the 'true costs' to patients and said the premium rate was recommended by health bodies.

Ms Camplin said: "At that time a 0844 number was an approved system recommended by the Local Medical Committee of the BMA and we were led to understand that patients with a land line would pay a local rate charge as would most mobile phone users who had contracts.

"We have introduced a local number in parallel to the 0844 number as an interim measure, whilst looking at options for moving away from the 0844 number.

"If patients are not aware of our local rate number we would draw their attention to our website and posters in the surgery which publicise this information.

"Please be assured we are doing everything in our power to resolve this issue as soon as possible."

Surgery Line has said its customers are not forced to continue to use the 0844 numbers until their long-term contracts end and it is open to them to move to a geographic number on request.

Comments (4)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

5:11pm Mon 3 Mar 14

Thunderbird4 says...

If they weren't sick before, I bet some of the patients are now.
If they weren't sick before, I bet some of the patients are now. Thunderbird4
  • Score: 2

8:11pm Mon 3 Mar 14

Villagecranberry says...

Like parking at hospitals, the sick and their families get kicked in the teeth and punished because the are ill or are visiting people poorly or trying to ring for the surgery for a sick friend or relative. Disgraceful.
Like parking at hospitals, the sick and their families get kicked in the teeth and punished because the are ill or are visiting people poorly or trying to ring for the surgery for a sick friend or relative. Disgraceful. Villagecranberry
  • Score: 2

1:34pm Tue 4 Mar 14

KWyatt-Lown says...

This is the second time the Guardian have reported on this story and the second time it has been stated that the practice has ;" introduced a local number in parallel to the 0844 number as an interim measure, whilst looking at options for moving away from the 0844 number." So, in the interest of the community, why has the paper still failed to published this alternative number?
This is the second time the Guardian have reported on this story and the second time it has been stated that the practice has ;" introduced a local number in parallel to the 0844 number as an interim measure, whilst looking at options for moving away from the 0844 number." So, in the interest of the community, why has the paper still failed to published this alternative number? KWyatt-Lown
  • Score: 2

11:26am Wed 5 Mar 14

Ian_SE says...

The GMS Contract covering GP practices requires them to take reasonable steps to eliminate their use of an 084 telephone number by April 2011. We are now three years beyond that date. One step could be the early termination of their telephone services contract and of their lease for telephone equipment. However, this solutuion may incur heavy penalty fees and so there is absolutely no requirement to take this option.

A far more reasonable and equally compliant solution is available. The practice can simply change their telephone number to the matching 0344 number or to a new 0300 number. The system supplier has already confirmed there is no fee for making this change and a number of other practices have shown this can be actioned within a matter of days.

Once the telephone number has been migrated, the practice becomes responsible for paying their own telephone bill in full without the benefit of a subsidy sourced from patients. The number migration facility from 084 to 03 has been available to all such users since late 2007. A similar facility also exists for migrating 087 numbers to 03.

All 03, 08 and 09 numbers offer the same call-queueing and call-handling facilites. With 084, 087 and 09 numbers the caller pays for these through extra charges built into the call price. With 03 numbers the called party pays for these extra facilities. Taking the 0844 to 0344 migration option sees only a single digit of the telephone number changing from an 8 to a 3. Calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calls to 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive allowances on landlines and mobiles.

The GMS Contract amendment of April 2010 was supposed to prevent further adoption of new 084 numbers from that date. There was plenty of media coverage about it at the time. As the practice entered this agreement in 2012, more than two years after the ban on adopting new 084 numbers had started, it should have been using an 03 number from the very start.

When considering whether calls to 084 numbers are more expensive than those to 01, 02 and 03 numbers, some parties have tried to claim the contract provisions apply only to BT customers on a specific tariff. However, the GMS Contract specifies to consider "the arrangement as a whole" to clarify that all patients are covered. The Secretary of State for Health stated in Parliament, on several occasions, that the provisons covered all patients whether using landlines, mobiles or payphones. 0844 numbers have never been charged as a "local rate" call. That designation applied only to 0845 numbers and only before 2004.

In 2013, NHS England worked with the Fair Telecoms Campaign to draft a letter to be sent to non-compliant practices. The letter explained their obligations and sought to bust a number of myths. The letter made clear that running an 01, 02 or 03 number in parallel with a retained 084 number is a breach of contract and all usage of the 084 number should completely cease. The letter was sent out by the 27 NHS England local area tems in November 2013 and it asked each practice to "explain their plan for swiftly moving away from the use of an 084 telephone number". That was almost four months ago. This must now be brought to a speedy and fully compliant conclusion.
The GMS Contract covering GP practices requires them to take reasonable steps to eliminate their use of an 084 telephone number by April 2011. We are now three years beyond that date. One step could be the early termination of their telephone services contract and of their lease for telephone equipment. However, this solutuion may incur heavy penalty fees and so there is absolutely no requirement to take this option. A far more reasonable and equally compliant solution is available. The practice can simply change their telephone number to the matching 0344 number or to a new 0300 number. The system supplier has already confirmed there is no fee for making this change and a number of other practices have shown this can be actioned within a matter of days. Once the telephone number has been migrated, the practice becomes responsible for paying their own telephone bill in full without the benefit of a subsidy sourced from patients. The number migration facility from 084 to 03 has been available to all such users since late 2007. A similar facility also exists for migrating 087 numbers to 03. All 03, 08 and 09 numbers offer the same call-queueing and call-handling facilites. With 084, 087 and 09 numbers the caller pays for these through extra charges built into the call price. With 03 numbers the called party pays for these extra facilities. Taking the 0844 to 0344 migration option sees only a single digit of the telephone number changing from an 8 to a 3. Calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calls to 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive allowances on landlines and mobiles. The GMS Contract amendment of April 2010 was supposed to prevent further adoption of new 084 numbers from that date. There was plenty of media coverage about it at the time. As the practice entered this agreement in 2012, more than two years after the ban on adopting new 084 numbers had started, it should have been using an 03 number from the very start. When considering whether calls to 084 numbers are more expensive than those to 01, 02 and 03 numbers, some parties have tried to claim the contract provisions apply only to BT customers on a specific tariff. However, the GMS Contract specifies to consider "the arrangement as a whole" to clarify that all patients are covered. The Secretary of State for Health stated in Parliament, on several occasions, that the provisons covered all patients whether using landlines, mobiles or payphones. 0844 numbers have never been charged as a "local rate" call. That designation applied only to 0845 numbers and only before 2004. In 2013, NHS England worked with the Fair Telecoms Campaign to draft a letter to be sent to non-compliant practices. The letter explained their obligations and sought to bust a number of myths. The letter made clear that running an 01, 02 or 03 number in parallel with a retained 084 number is a breach of contract and all usage of the 084 number should completely cease. The letter was sent out by the 27 NHS England local area tems in November 2013 and it asked each practice to "explain their plan for swiftly moving away from the use of an 084 telephone number". That was almost four months ago. This must now be brought to a speedy and fully compliant conclusion. Ian_SE
  • Score: 9

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree