I have moved back to Swindon, and due to continuing requirment to engage with the health care profession; I needed to register with a new Doctors,

I have registered with the North Swindon Practice at Home Ground Surgery, who list 08444 996 631 as the only phone number they offer. As some one who only has a mobile phone, 0844 numbers are not included in my phone bill; so I have written the following letter to the practice manager, I look forward to her response:

Dear Christine,

I am writing in regard to the use of 08444 996 631 as the contact number for North Swindon Practice,

Call charges to various non-geographical numbers (from a BT landline):
01x/02x – Geographical calls – Daytime 3ppm, Evening & Weekends 5.5p for upto an hour. These calls from other landline providers are often cheaper and in some cases free especially at weekends.

0870 – Daytime 7.5ppm, Evening 3.7ppm and Weekends 1.5ppm
0845 – Daytime 3ppm, Evening 1ppm and Weekends 1ppm
0844 – These prices vary upto 5ppm all the time regardless of time of day and (NEG Surgery Line use numbers that cost 5ppm all the time)

This means that by using 08444 996 631, your patients are actually paying 5ppm all the time.

The use of an 0844 number means that your provider makes profit of each and every minute we are on a call. I hope you agree that this shouldn’t happen at the expense of your patients that are poorly/elderly and possibly on very low incomes.

As mentioned above, these costs are based on calls from a BT landline only. Calls from other landline providers generally cost more (calls to geographical landline 01x & 02x are generally cheaper from other landline providers) and calls from mobile actually can cost upto 45ppm to call non-geographical numbers.

Numbers beginning 084x, 087x are known as non-geographical and are excluded from ALL landline providers inclusive call packages and mobile networks inclusive call packages. Therefore, those patients of yours who pay their mobile provider for unlimited calls are often under the impression it includes all calls but actually doesn’t include calls to your practice.

Calls to non-geographical numbers (especially 0844x) numbers may not be possible when calling from overseas simply because of the high costs involved.

Ofcom have the following guidelines about the use of non-geographical numbers used by public funded government bodies:
“Ofcom believes it is inappropriate for public bodies to use NTS numbers exclusively (i.e. without at a minimum, giving equal prominence to a geographic alternative) when dealing with people on low incomes or other vulnerable groups. Ofcom has been active in providing advice to the Government’s Central Office of Information (‘COI’) and Government Departments and will continue to provide this support. Ofcom would like to see a greater level of compliance with the COI’s published guidelines on the use of number ranges, given the level of public disquiet over this issue, and would be keen to support the Government in achieving this objective.”

The Central Office of Information have issued the following guidelines:
“0845 in particular has been known as ‘local rate’ – however with increased competition in the marketplace and resultant changes in tariff structures, these rates will often be in excess of normal local rates that citizens might be charged on their package. 0845 (and 0844) costs through phone boxes and some mobile tariffs can also be expensive to the citizen and this should also be considered.”

Although the above guidelines refer mostly to 0845 it actually applies more to 0844 numbers because they actually cost significantly more than 0845 numbers depending on time of day, etc.

The cheapest rate for us patients (excluding freephone) is a geographical number – all other numbers will cost us more especially if we are in a queue waiting to be answered.

I would be grateful if you let me know what your feelings are on the above; and what the 01793 number is for Home Ground Surgery.

If you need any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

As you can guess I don’t like being forced to pay more than I need to access health care;