People were understandably angry that they had to pay up to 40p to call their General Practitioner (GP) because of 0845 numbers, and so began the investigation, under the question ?Why my doctors have an 0845 number?.The consultation period for use of 0845 numbers began 16th December 2008 and ended March 31st 2009, as stated by Ben Bradshaw MP, Minister of State for Health Services;
?We have been very pleased with the level of public response to this consultation, having received a much higher volume of responses than expected.
Whilst this is, of course, very positive news in itself in terms of demonstrating the strength of public feeling around this issue, it is important to ensure that in reaching an outcome, we fully take into account the breadth of responses received?.
A Which? report that helped in expanding upon and detailing the way in which 0845 numbers are used in GP practices; reportedly, one in six UK Gp?s used 0845 numbers to fund the use of ?Surgery Line, a telephone system promising more access and efficiency, with features like a queuing system and call routing.?This meant GP?s recieved 2p from each call made to their practice, but this money was then invested straight back into the telephone systems. ?Director of sales George Neal said that surgeries using Surgery Line have increased patient access by 30%, and calls are cheaper overall because they are answered more quickly?. The NHS were banned from using premium rate numbers throughout the course of the investigation anyway, but the petition against 08** numbers was now up and going strong. People, as a result started taking notice and becoming more aware of their local GP?s practices; the petition was the spearhead, but individuals became more aware of their own local practice by checking saynoto0870. The investigation had gained momentum and it looked as though things were heading in the right direction. By September, it was finally being reported that after 3000 people had responded (via the petition) to the consultation, 90% has responded in favour of banning 08** numbers in hospitals or GP surgeries, so calls would cost no more than a standard call from then on. Despite the positive response by the government to the petition, there was still a fear that because a ?standard call? would still cost more in the evening and across various mobile phone packages, which would still mean people would be paying more than a standard call. However, towards the end of the investigation, things became clearer with regards to the use of 08** numbers in general. 0845 numbers are not premium rate numbers, and only cost more if the company using them are not subsidising the charges. If a local alternative is being sought, saynoto0870 is still the best place to head. Each organisation will use 0845 numbers for different reasons, whether it be for capital gain or to ensure a local customer will pay locally, or simply for the call management services. To put it simply, if on a mobile phone package that makes you unsure as to whether you will have to pay extra, find a local alternative through a website like saynoto0870, and otherwise, the calls will be at a standard rate. The full list of updates, in chronological order (although messy) is here, which makes it easy to see the investigation as it progressed without categorisation.