Advice to NHS Bodies concerning the cost of telephone calls
3 - Telephone tariffs used by NHS Patients
The recently issued Directions to NHS bodies concerning the cost of telephone calls requires those bodies to determine whether "persons will not pay more ... than they would to make an equivalent call to a geographic number" if choosing to use a non-geographic telephone number for the delivery of NHS services.
As use of 087x, 09xx and 070x numbers has already been banned, and 03xx numbers are guaranteed to meet this condition by regulation, the point at issue is 084x numbers. As different telephone service providers operate different tariffs the necessary determination of whether "persons will not pay more" can only be made based on the tariffs applicable to those persons - "those to whom the health services are being or may be provided".
It appears therefore that the Department of Health requires NHS bodies to survey all current and potential recipients of their services to discover if a current or proposed 084x telephone number can be retained or newly adopted.
Assistance with resolution of this matterI follow with three lists that classify a large number of current residential telephone tariffs with respect to the cost of calls to 0845 and 0844 (call type "g6") numbers relative to that for geographic numbers.
For simplicity I refer only to weekday daytime calls, as defined by the respective provider - those taking calls in the evening and weekends will find it less easy to use 084x numbers. As there are 34 different rates associated with the 0844 prefix I use that most commonly adopted - in general the same would be true of most other 0844 rates, however there may be a tiny number of exceptional cases.
The three listsThe first list identifies those on which a caller would pay more to call either a 0845 or 0844 number than an equivalent call to a geographic number.
The second is of those for which this applies to a 0844 but not a 0845 number.
If any "user of health services" could be expected to call under the terms of any one of these tariffs then use of the number must be considered to be prohibited.
The third list is offered for completeness to show the extent of my research and to place claims about the cost of calling 0845 and 0844 numbers in a proper context, as they may relate only to those tariffs. It lists those tariffs on which a caller would pay the same or less to call the 0845 or 0844 number. Those who promote use of 084x numbers are known to quote examples from these tariffs, under the false pretence that they are typical or even universal, to sustain the argument that use of 084x numbers is acceptable.
This would, of course, only be true if all callers were calling under the terms of these packages. I am not sure if it would be proper for an NHS body to urge or advise patients to change their telephone service provider or tariff so that it may comply with Department of Health directions!
Further considerationsThe Directions demand consideration of "the arrangement as a whole", so it may be necessary to verify that the classification of tariffs on the second and third list would remain valid for the duration of the contract for supply of telephone service on a 084x number. In this regard it should be noted that Ofcom will shortly be considering whether or not to retain the regulatory control on BT pricing, which is the primary reason for there being any tariffs on these lists.
Given the nature of the principles of the NHS, I am sure that there could be no question of tolerating some patients paying for NHS services because others can gain access at a saving against the normal costs that they would be expected to incur.
Notes are appended below the lists.
List 1 - Telephone tariffs where the cost of a daytime call to a 0845 or 0844 number is greater than that of an equivalent call to a geographic number (see notes and comments).
- BT - Public Payphones
- Virgin Media - Talk Weekends
- Virgin Media - Talk Evenings and Weekends
- Virgin Media - Talk Anytime
- Vodafone - £10 - Contract
- Vodafone - £15 - Contract
- Vodafone - £20 - Contract
- Vodafone - £25 - Contract
- Vodafone - £30 - Contract
- Vodafone - £35 - Contract
- Vodafone - £40 - Contract
- Vodafone - £75 - Contract
- Vodafone - Simply - PAYG
- O2 - Pay Monthly
- O2 - Pay&Go
- Orange - Racoon - PAYG or Contract
- Orange - Dolphin - PAYG or Contract
- Orange - Panther - Contract
- Orange - Monkey - PAYG
- Orange - Canary - PAYG
- Orange - Camel - PAYG
- T-Mobile - Combi - Contract
- T-Mobile - Flext - Contract
- T-Mobile - Solo - Contract
- T-Mobile - PAYG
- 3 - Texter - Contract
- 3 - Internet Texter - Contract
- 3 - Mix & Match - Contract
- 3 - Pay as you go
- Virgin Mobile - Pay Monthly - Contract
- Virgin Mobile - Liberty SIM - Contract
- First: - Anytime
- First: - eve&weekend
- Phone co-op - Evenings & Weekends
- Phone co-op - Pay as you use
- Pipex - Anytime
- Pipex - Saver
- Pipex - Leisure
- Saga - Hourtime
- Saga - Standard
- Sky Talk - Unlimited
- Tesco - HomePhone - Talk 3
List 2 - Telephone tariffs where the cost of a daytime call to a 0844 number is greater than that of an equivalent call to a geographic number, whereas that to a 0845 is the same or less (see notes and comments).
- BT - Calling Plan - Unlimited Anytime Plan
- BT - Calls and Broadband package - Unlimited
- Karoo - KC Talk1
- Karoo - KC Talk2
- Karoo - KC Talk3
- Karoo - KC Talk4
- Talk Talk - UK Evening and Weekend
- Talk Talk - UK Anytime
- Pipex - Hometime
- Pipex - Everytime
- Post Office - Home Phone
- Tesco - HomePhone - Talk 1
- Tesco - HomePhone - Talk 2
- Utility Warehouse - Home Phone
List 3 - Telephone tariffs where the cost of a daytime call to a 0845 or 0844 number is the same as or less than that of an equivalent call a geographic number (see notes and comments).
- BT - Calling Plan - Unlimited Evenings and Weekends Plan
- BT - Calling Plan - UnlimitedWeekends Plan
- BT - Calls and Broadband package - Get Connected
- BT - Calls and Broadband package - Home & away
- BT - BT Basic
- Virgin Mobile - Addict - PAYG
- The tariffs listed are those currently available and with details published on the internet. Details of previous tariffs and others that may still be in use are not always published. It is imperative that the relevant information be confirmed with the companies listed here. I must urge confirmation of this information with all relevant providers. Published information is often obtuse and difficult to access.
- It may also be necessary to consult any other providers of telephone service to patients likely to call any 084x number that may be proposed for use in the provision of NHS services.
- The above classification takes account of the penalty charges applied to landline tariffs when calls are made outside the terms of an inclusive package, which is limited by time and day.
- The classification does not necessarily take account of the fact that some contract mobile tariffs apply a penalty on calls to geographic numbers when the number of inclusive minutes selected has been consumed. This may cause them to cease to be cheaper than calls to 0844 and / or 0845 numbers, under those circumstances. (I believe that this represents a fair approach. One could never be assured that calls to numbers used to provide NHS services would only be made after inclusive minutes had been consumed.)
- There are no business tariffs listed, as NHS services are only available to individuals.
- If anyone notices any significant errors in or omissions from any of the lists I would be most grateful to be advised, so that this information may be corrected as necessary.