Chronology of the ban on expensive 084 numbers in the NHS
This issue has been around for a number of years now and here’s a recap:
- December 2008: The DH launched a consultation which proposed a ban on the use of 084 numbers in the NHS in England.
- September 2009: The DH published its response to the consultation in which it said that it had received 3,000 responses. Around two thirds of these were from members of the public of which 87% wished to see a ban on the use of 084 numbers.
- December 2009: The DH issued Directions to NHS Bodies, giving them a year in which to take steps to make necessary changes so that callers paid no more than they do for geographic calls.
- April 2010: The DH issued the Variation to the Standard General Medical Services contract giving GPs and other contractors a year in which to take steps to make necessary changes so that callers paid no more than they do for geographic calls.
- July 2011: A Health Minister confirmed in Parliament that the ban applies to landlines, mobiles and public payphones alike.
- January 2012: A Health Minister said that the Government’s position is that callers should not pay any more than they do to ring a landline. It stands by the rules drawn up by the previous Administration, which stipulate this. He went on to reaffirm that the regulations cover landlines, mobiles and payphones equally.
- February 2012: The DH issued Further Guidance on the use of 084 numbers in the NHS.
- March 2012: The Secretary of State for Health stated succinctly that “GPs should not be using 0844 numbers.”
- April 2013: A Warrington group of practices says it will be changing to a 0844 number this month, but performs a U-turn a few days later.
- May 2013: Daisy Surgery Line says it will no longer market 0844 numbers to NHS-related organisations.
- 16th June 2013: Daisy Surgery Line says that its customers can exchange their 0844 number for a 03 non-geographic or enhanced geographic number whilst under contract and without incurring any penalty.
- 23rd June 2013: The BMA position: GPs will not give up 0844 telephone numbers — they prefer NHS patients to pay their telephone bills for them.
- 4th November 2013: NHS England tells NHS GPs that they must take all reasonable steps to cease use of 0843, 0844 and 0845 numbers. The letter, which patients can print out and take to their surgery, dispells the common myth that practices must terminate the contract in order to move away from the 084 number. It also says that offering a geographic rate number in parallel is unacceptable as the NHS does not offer distinct tiers based on the ability to pay.
- 24th April 2015: Many NHS GPs who had their patients illegally pay for their telephone systems no longer use 084 numbers. After all, they had no need to continue as the reason for adopting the numbers was to fund the hardware. Despite this, 184 surgeries are still using 084 telephone numbers. Soon any which remain will have to declare their illegal NHS charge, as part of UK Calling when clear call rates will be introduced. The Service Charge has always been there with 084 numbers, but from 1st July it will have to be declared by service providers. So the NHS GPs still on 0844 and 0845 numbers will have to promote their illegal Service Charge of up to 7 pence per minute!