Patients at a Spalding medical centre have welcomed news that its “expensive” 0844 telephone number, which was at the centre of a national investigation, has been changed to a local one.
NHS Lincolnshire said: “After listening to feedback from our Patient Reference Group and survey, we have renegotiated our contract, and installed a new phone system which allows us to receive more incoming calls and track and respond to callers more quickly.
“As a result the surgery has switched to using the local phone number 01775 715999.
“This local number also ensures that patients are not being charged more than the geographical rate, regardless of where they are phoning from.
“We would ask callers to be patient with us as we monitor the volume of incoming calls, and will arrange for additional lines to be installed if we find there are extended periods where all lines are in use.”
Within minutes of patients being texted about the change on Friday, the news was being hailed a victory on the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian’s Facebook page.
Louise Creek said: “It’s about time. I recently had to call from a payphone during my stay in hospital and it cost me £6 for two to three minutes. Needless to say I was less than pleased!”
In May, Monroe Medical Centre was named in a Which? magazine investigation, claiming it was one of only eight surgeries in the UK still using 0844 numbers and “making money out of people’s calls for help”.
Concerns were again addressed in the West Elloe Avenue centre’s 2012 Patients’ Survey Results.
The document stated: “It is not true we seek to profit from the use of an 0844 – under the terms of the contract we are not permitted to do so.
“Longer term we would like to move away from using an 0844 number and if possible return to using a local 01775.
“However, telecoms contracts are long-term deals and at present ours isn’t due to end for a further two-and-a-half-years.”
At the time, a spokesman for NHS Lincolnshire said: “Patients contacting Munro Medical Centre on the 0844 number are not being charged any more than the geographical rate.
“However, the practice is looking to move away from the existing 0844 number and is currently looking at all options available to them in the short, medium, and long term.”