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0844 numbers

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Wednesday 11 November 2009 11.00am
A couple of years ago my GP's surgery put a notice on the waiting room wall informing us that in order to provide a more efficient service the new surgery number will be 0844....etc. I wondered how the new eleven digit number could be more efficient than the old one where you didn't need to dial the area code, just the six digit suffix. Anyhow, it was a fait accompli. The surgery opens at 8 a.m. and experience has taught me that if you need an appointment and phone even as much as one minute after eight o'clock, then you will be about 20th in the queue. No exageration. In order to avoid this, the following strategy has to be employed. Start dialling at about thirty seconds to eight o'clock and by the time you've finished putting in the eleven digit number and listened to the voice thanking you for calling, the switchboard is open and you're one of the first in the queue. I followed this to the letter this morning and the scenario was as follows...
'Thank you for calling the ******* surgery. Please wait while we connect you to the surgery.'
(Thirty seconds later.)
'The surgery is experiencing high call volume. If your call is of a non urgent nature, it is advisable call back later.'
(Nobody follows this advice because if you do, you get the same message.)
Thirty seconds later...
'We are sorry to keep you waiting. Your position in the queue is number two.'
Thirty seconds later, repeat of the message about high call volume. Thirty seconds later, 'Your position in the queue is number one.'
Thirty seconds later, repeat of message about high call volume. Thirty seconds later, 'You are now connected to the ******* surgery. The surgery is now closed. Please call back later.'
I had obviously mis-timed my call by a couple of seconds and was already in the system before the switchboard opened. I rang back immediately and, after going through the same pre-connection formalities, I got a message telling me I was number sixteen in the queue. I hung up. I'll try again when I've calmed down. So much for improving efficiency when you have to wait ages to be told the surgery is closed. When walking my dog a little later I met my neighbour and, still being a little miffed, I mentioned the call to the surgery. He said that 0844 numbers are charged at 10p per minute. Like hospital car parks, it seems that the NHS have found themselves another nice little earner!
Wednesday 11 November 2009 2.00pm
Chalkey have you tried the old g.p's number it may still work. I would not go to any doctors if i could help it. I have told my g.p. a dozen times I do not get colds or flu when he wanted to me to have flu/swine jab, (well i did have a cold years ago and used that first defence stuff!) and despite telling him i dont want it, he sent a letter telling me to go and have it done, I wonder if the persistence is due to the fact they get paid for ensuring their patients have it according to one report...
Wednesday 11 November 2009 4.29pm
Jan, they say wisdom grows with age....So does cynicism. But only through our experiences. Too may things in life these days are money driven. I remember the days when I could walk in to my local bank to pay in a cheque and all I got was a smile, a 'Good morning' and a 'Thank you.' Which is all I needed. Now they try to sell us everything: Mortgages, house insurance, life insurance etc. Every cashier is an agent! Not, I'm sure. because they want to be, but because the big fat-cat directors want bigger bonuses! The thing that discusted me most about this sort of thing was a couple of years ago when I took my youngest daughter in to 'New Look' to kit her out in a bit of summer clobber. I spent about thirty quid and the girl who served me, who looked no older than eighteen, asked me if i wanted a 'New Look' account card. I said. 'No thanks.' (New Look isn't a regular haunt of mine.) She then said that if I tok out the card she could give me ten percent off of what I had just spent. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth I signed up for the card and got a few quid off my bill. The assistant was delighted and told me she had now reached her target for the month. I couldn't resit asking if young sales staff like her are really under such pressure to hit targets on the company account cards. She replied, 'Oh yes. We each have to sign up thirty a month. The area manager has a right go if we don't!' A week later the card arrived and, as the discount was only on the first purchase, I cut it up and put it in the bin. I haven'y been back to any branch of 'New Look' since.
Wednesday 11 November 2009 4.55pm
By the way, Jan, re the old GP's phone number. It was my first visit to the surgery and I had gone just to register me and the family, having just moved in to the area. So I've no idea what the old number was. And another thing.....
I reckon traffic wardens are on some financial incentive as well. The seafront here in Southend is rich pickings. I have seen wardens with pen and pad in hand, standing by cars that have tickets nearing their expirey time and then, as soon as they have expired, slapping a fixed penalty on the windscreen. My son has also seen this happen. My daughter was less than five minutes late getting back to her car in Camden one day last year and there was already a fixed penalty notice on her windscreen. She looked up and down what was a very long road and there wasn't a warden in sight. That notice must have been on my daughter's windscreen for best part of that five minutes. I phoned Camden B.C. and told them exactly that. They were totally disinterested and told me, rather abruptly, that there is no leeway whatsoever on parking times. It doesn't seem that long ago when, if you got back to your car late, there was sometimes a warden standing there pointing at his watch and then giving you a gentle ticking off. Not scribbling out a ticket as fast as his little hands could manage.
Wednesday 11 November 2009 5.01pm
Bet you he'd been standing there ticket written looking at his watch (which is likely fast anyways) waiting for the exact second he could put the ticket on!
Thursday 12 November 2009 9.10am
Recently Chalkey there was an mention of banning all 0844 numbers for g.p.'s...
Thursday 12 November 2009 9.20am
If that's the case, Jan, then I'm right in saying it IS a money maker! Bring on the ban!
By the way, my daughter's school, another government institution, is also 0844. Funny, that.
Thursday 12 November 2009 10.27am
BBC news, september 09 put in nhs premium etc. calls to g.p.'s should be charged at standard rates.
Thursday 12 November 2009 11.19am
I'm not a political person and don't want to start a political debate, but surely these 0844 numbers are just another stealth tax.
Wednesday 18 November 2009 5.18pm
The typical argument is that revenue generated from these premium rate numbers is used to pay for up to date and better telephone equipment (aka the annoying press 1 for this, press 2 for that, etc. digital switchboards), the cost of which would otherwise fall on the taxpayer. As other posters have suggested, the problem with the 'earn as you make people stay on hold' model is that there is no incentive to be efficient and you actually benefit by keeping people waiting. What should take a minute or two and cost 10-20p can take 10 or 20 minutes and cost 1-2. If you are frequent visitors to the doctor and are on a low income this must really add up.
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