Patients, visitors and members of the public interested in contacting the Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust will no longer experience high call costs as they have announced plans to switch over to the 03 number range.
From Friday 28th February, the Trust will switch their existing 0844 811 8118 number for general enquiries and start to provide the equivalent 0344 number to ensure callers are never charged at more than the cost of an 01 or 02 call again.
The Trust is one of the largest geographically spread NHS organisations in the UK and introduced non-geographic numbers in order to centralise their telephony so people can contact their services, wards, departments and staff easily.
Medical services in the UK have been under fire for using the higher rate 0844 numbers for some time although many are tied into contracts that have to expire before they are able to switch to more consumer-friendly numbers. The Trust’s contract is now expired and they have now chosen to provide a number that allows low cost calls from both landlines and mobiles.
Ann Wright, executive director of operations at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted that this change is now taking place to make it even easier for people to get in touch with us. We serve a big population and having nine busy hospital sites, means we need a central number for people to call.
“The board has been very keen for some time to see this change as we know there have been many concerns about the perceived high cost of 0844 calls. Although we had negotiated a very good 4p per minute rate on our previous contract, our new 03 number means everyone will be charged an equal local rate.”