"Hospital feedback"

About: The Tunbridge Wells Hospital

Anything else?

The telephone number for the hospital is 0845 and under Dept of Health rules 2009 the 0845 numbers have been banned, so why does this hospital not comply.

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Response from The Tunbridge Wells Hospital

We are very sorry to hear of your concerns over the Trust's use of the 0845 numbers. As you may imagine, providing telephone services for a large Trust involving two hospital sites over 16 miles apart is a complex issue and the Trust is constantly reviewing and updating the systems used. This is in keeping with our duty to ensure that we make best use of public funds and achieve value for money. Making changes is equally complex as there are a wide range of departments impacted by the way in which telephone services are delivered in the Trust, so it is not something which can be done quickly or without careful planning. The guidance regarding the use of 0845 numbers laid out conditions which need to be met for NHS bodies to continue to use the numbers and indicated that all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that this use does not continue for longer than absolutely necessary. The Trust uses 0845 numbers to provide a local rate to callers across the country, however it is recognised that some callers could pay a lower rate using a geographic ‘local’ number depending on packages they have with their own telecommunications provider. The Trust acknowledges that this is something that must be reconsidered. However, it is important that we do not make piecemeal changes at this time but rather develop a comprehensive strategy which can then be implemented with proper change management and planning. Even the publication of 01892 or 01622 numbers is not a simple matter due to the nature of the contract the Trust is currently committed to. Use of both these local numbers to call into the Trust actually incurs a cost to the organisation and thereby the public purse. Thus it is essential that we give careful consideration of all the issues and take time to make sure we achieve the most effective result. In part the goal is to achieve continuity across the whole Trust and have a clear communications strategy to ensure the public has access to the correct numbers. The review will explore the use of 034 numbers and will be considering the practicalities of offering alternative local numbers to callers. This review is in keeping with the guidance and I can assure you that the Trust aims at all times to provide the best and most effective service we can for all those who need to contact us by telephone. The Trust board have now ‘signed off’ a business case to replace the telecommunication system at the Maidstone site, and this will involve a move to an internally managed ITP telephone system, which will enable to offer the best mix of dialing options. However, it is important that the Trust appropriately manages the telephony routes in, ensuring that the public are aware of the changes and putting control measures in place as required. As I believe was explained during your call, this project is currently for tender with a purchase date anticipated in 2013 and full deployment within approximately eight months from purchase. If there is anything further we can help you with, please do not hesitate to contact us at mtwpals@nhs.net. Kind regards The MTW PALS Team (SG)

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