"0845 expensive calls to doctors"

(as the patient),

Copy of letter sent to MP

Thank you for your reply to my comments regarding 0845 telephone numbers being used by doctors surgeries.

From the reply you received, quoting the 2004 regulations covering General Medical Service Contracts, I would presume that as this allows the use of 0845 numbers, their use is considered acceptable?

0845 numbers were introduced as a marketing tool for national companies to allow customers, throughout the country, to make contact at the cost of a local call, in those days the local call rate was the same as the cost of an 0845 number, national calls were somewhat dearer.

I fail to see any benefits of this system to the patients, all their calls were already local. I would suggest that the primary benefit of this system is the revenue sharing element which would effectively be a stealth tax on the sick, subsidising NHS telecoms systems. Otherwise they would opt for an 0345 number which is included in inclusive minutes packages, and has no revenue share and would not cost the patients any extra.

BT now do include 0870 and 0845 on their basic contract but unless you call after 6pm or before 6am and weekends, you are charged, unless you have their anytime package. No other provider has followed suit, they have by now had some time to respond.

The my local practice manager told me that this system was imposed upon them by the NHS as they own the building, the doctors simply lease it.

I think it is fairly clear that the long term sick, injured, disabled and elderly members of our community are usually less favored financially. These people may not have contract mobile phones or a 24/7 inclusive package. These are the people who are now paying considerable more to contact their doctors and they need that contact more often!

The costs of phoning these numbers is up to 40p per min. From some mobile phones this charge starts as soon as the recorded message and queuing system starts.

I would hope that whoever wrote the 2004 regulations now has another job, as I cannot see how they had the public interest in mind, by not banning 0845 numbers.

I feel that more publicity should be given to this and I intend to contact the local media to that effect. I believe that there is a reliance on public ignorance when these decisions are made. I think this is not acceptable.

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