Why the Outcome of Department of Health’s Consultation in September Could Boost 03 Numbers in the NHS
In September 2009 it is expected that the Department of Health will announce the results of its consultation into the use of 084 numbers in the NHS.
The consultation ran between December 2008 and March 2009 and asked members of the public and key stakeholders whether the use of 084 numbers (e.g. 0844 numbers) should be prohibited for all NHS services. The primary concern being the cost for patients to call these services – particularly from a mobile phone.
Many GP practices, pharmacies, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and opticians currently use 084 numbers as they offer them improved call features like caller queuing and options for patients to ensure they get through to the right department (e.g. press 1 for appointments, press 2 to speak to a nurse etc.)
Should the outcome mean that the 084 numbers in the NHS are banned, the natural alternative (and the one that is advocated by the Department of Health) are 0300 numbers.
0300 numbers are exclusively for the public sector and offer exactly the same benefits as 084 numbers.The crucial difference however, is the cost to call them; 0300 numbers cost the same to call as regular landlines – even from a mobile phone. This is important when 44.5% of all UK calls are now made from mobile phones (Ofcom 2009).
It’s for these reasons that 0300 numbers (http://www.windsor-telecom.co.uk/0300-numbers-0303-numbers.php) are already being used by many NHS organisations including the National Blood Service, Wiltshire Medical Services, South Staffordshire PCT and NHS Change4Life.
Here are 5 more reasons why 0300 numbers are ideal for NHS services:
1. They meet the needs of the public as they cost the same to call as 01/02 numbers – even from a mobile. 0300 numbers are also included in the free minutes offered by mobile and landline networks.
2. The public trust 0300 numbers (http://www.windsor-telecom.co.uk/0300-numbers-0303-numbers.php) as they are exclusively for public sector organisations.
3. Organisations can welcome their callers with introduction messages and recorded announcements which can be changed as and when required. For example, during a public health threat (e.g. swine flu) a doctors surgery can ensure that patients hear a pre-recorded message about the symptoms of swine flu when they call, in order for the pressure to be taken off their resources.
4. Callers can be queued during busy periods meaning that all important calls will be answered.
5. It’s possible to record calls to 0300 numbers.
The outcome of the public consultation will be interesting and for NHS organisations that rely on the functions of their telephone numbers, then 0300 numbers (http://www.windsor-telecom.co.uk/0300-numbers-0303-numbers.php) will provide a viable alternative if they should choose to rule out 084 numbers in the NHS.
Mark Guy is marketing and PR officer at Windsor Telecom: http://www.windsor-telecom.co.uk
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