Doctors and 0845 Numbers

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.

4 thoughts on “Doctors and 0845 Numbers

  1. 0845 numbers

    0845 numbers can be a wonderful money and time saver, both for clients and the owners of the number. The owner can be reached no matter where he/she is and the client will only ever have to pay the local charges for the call.

    1. Ian

      A distinct ‘local rate’ ceased to exist in 2004. This was when providers scrapped the price differential based on distance and moved callers on to inclusive price plans for their calls to 01 and 02 numbers. With 084 and 087 numbers not included, these became relatively more expensive with every such call further pushing up the caller’s bill.

      The ASA warned in September 2005 that 084 and 087 numbers must no longer be described as local or national rate calls.

      084 and 087 calls are expensive. Since 2007, replacement 03 numbers have been available. These are charged the same as calls to 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive allowances in the same way.

  2. Ian

    This was a good article… until the final three paragraphs when it went into terminal decline.

    All calls to 084 numbers involve the caller paying a premium to the benefit of both the called party and the called party’s telecoms provider. This is why these calls generally cost more than calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers. The latter group do not incur this additional charge.

    Most people call 01, 02 and 03 numbers using inclusive minutes. This applies to landlines and mobiles alike. Calls to 084 and 087 numbers are not included in the allowance so every call further pushes up the caller’s phone bill.

    The NHS banned the use of these numbers in 2009 and amended GP contracts in England and Wales in April 2010. The deadline was April 2011 for all existing 084 numbers to be scrapped.

    In our NHS, which is “free at the point of need”, it was always wholly inappropriate for patients to be subsidising practice telephony costs through stealth charges built into the inflated cost of the telephone calls. It is also inappropriate to be offering two numbers with different charges.

    From June 2015 all users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers are required to declare their Service Charge wherever their number is advertised. It will be clear that all 084, 087 and 09 numbers involve the caller paying a premium within the call cost.

  3. Ian

    Ofcom has confirmed the changeover date as 1 July 2015 and published an informational website and video at

    From that date all users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers are required to declare the Service Charge wherever their number is advertised thus revealing the amount of subsidy shared by the called party and their telecoms provider.

    Ofcom’s reforms impose no specific price changes. They merely provide transparency to the situation as it has existed for the last 15 years or so.

    The call price consists of two parts, each separately declared. One, the Access Charge, is set by the caller’s network, the other, the Service Charge, set by the organisation being called.

    The total cost of calling some numbers may go up in price from some or all providers. Other numbers may go down in price from some or all providers. The total cost of calling some numbers may go up in price from some networks and down in price from other networks.

    The reforms will make it easier to see why calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers cost more than calls to 01, 02 or 03 numbers. The latter do not incur an additional Service Charge.


Leave a Reply