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Are ‘0300’ numbers the way forward for patients seeking call cost clarity?

by OPEX Hosting, February 9th 2009

It has never sat particularly well with patients or government that '084' numbers are used in the NHS. Why? Because more often than not patients have to pay more than the cost of a local rate call to access NHS services. As a rule, GP surgeries and Out of Hours Service providers usually choose not to charge more than the minimum for '084' numbers, but patients have no way of knowing this before calling. In addition, phone companies have not included calls to '084' numbers as part of call packages or bundles and this makes them more expensive. Although BT have recently changed their policy on '084' numbers, to reduce some of the cost, the situation still lacks clarity and can be confusing.

Consequently, there is increasing pressure to stop the use of these numbers and this is being driven by both media and patient groups. Involvement by the Department of Health has now led to a public consultation on whether or not the use of ‘084 numbers’ should be banned within the NHS. Ofcom and the Department of Health have developed an alternative solution by reserving the ‘0300’ number prefix as a guaranteed low cost call, reserved specifically for access to Public Sector and charitable organisations.

The ‘0300’ range provides the same telephony functions as other non-geographic numbers such as ’084’ numbers. This includes queue management, push button options for call routing, redirection to other locations or services and access to automated booking systems, but is charged at the same rate as a call to a local number.

OPEX Hosting, fully endorse the use of ‘0300’ numbers — as a leading supplier of hosted telephony services to the NHS, Primary Care Trusts and Out of Hours service providers in the UK, the company believes this solution avoids caller confusion.

According to Graham Woolley, NHS Account Manager at OPEX Hosting ‘What the 0300 prefix represents, is clarity for patients and customers that they are not paying a premium to access NHS services. We have seen a real upsurge in demand for 0300 numbers which we provide alongside IVR, ACD, recording and routing applications, enabling an organisation to adopt, optimise and promote a Single Access Number for all services regardless of location.’

OPEX Hosting has access to a large pool of‘0300’ numbers including the more popular 03000 247 999 and 03000 247 365 type numbers which are already generating interest. Ultimately non-geographic numbers like these offer organisations the benefit of a permanent number that is independent of geographic location and can therefore survive organisational change whilst ensuring the patient or caller is charged no more than the cost of calling a local number.