Newtown couple slapped with £106 phone bill for medical help

Reporter:

Elgan Hearn

A PHONE line which gave medical advice when doctors surgeries are closed, has been shut down.

This comes after The Powys County Times contacted Shropdoc after a couple from Newtown were slapped with a bill of more than £100, following a medical emergency.

Shropdoc has told The Powys County Times, that its old 0844 number has now been closed down.

In the early hours of Saturday, October 7, Adrian Collins phoned Shropdoc as his wife, Sarah, was struggling with a vomiting bug and unable to take any medication.

A few weeks later the couple were flabbergasted to receive their mobile phone bill and find that the two calls to Shropdoc had cost £106.

Adrian said: “I was following advice, if your surgery is closed you’re told to ring Shropdoc.

“I could have phoned for an ambulance or driven her to A&E but thought I was doing the right thing.

“Sarah was unwell with a bug and was sick.

“She was vomiting the pain killers up, so I didn’t know what to do.”

Sarah, who suffers from Fybromyalgia, added: “I just don’t understand why there was no warning that you’re going to be charged for using that number.”

“Or why we didn’t get diverted?”

“People who use the phoneline for advice are obviously not feeling well or could be vulnerable and might not be able to afford to pay this type of bill”.

Dr Russell Muirhead, chairman of Shropdoc, said “We are sorry to hear the patient has been inconvenienced in this way and are happy to investigate fully.

“The access number in question was changed over two years ago in response to rising charges.”

The current official number of 0333 222 6655 is charged at national rate, which is within NHS requirements. 

“The 0844 number in question should only be charged at 4p per minute, although additional access charges may be added by an individual’s provider, over which Shropdoc has no control.

“The 0844 number in question was not closed completely at the time of changeover, but carried on with a redirection to ensure no patient was left at risk when trying to contact Shropdoc. 

“However as two years have now passed and the new number has been well advertised and adopted, Shropdoc has taken the decision to close the 0844 number completely now. 

“ Patients can access the current number through the Shropdoc website or via their own GP surgery.

“We are happy to discuss this matter further with the patient directly and to investigate their bill.”

A spokeman for Powys Teaching Health Board which commissioned Shropdoc to provide out of hour services said: “We worked with Shropdoc to introduce the local rate 0333 222 6655 telephone number.

“It was our expectation that Shropdoc would take steps to update this number wherever the old number was published.”

Email:

elgan.hearn@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the County Times

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  • Ian016

    16:04, 15 November 2017

    In December 2009, the Department of Health banned NHS services from using premium rate 084 numbers. This extended the earlier ban on the use of premium rate 087 and 09 numbers that was introduced in 2005. The fact that it has taken ShropDoc almost EIGHT YEARS to comply is beyond appalling. The call charges for these numbers has always been high. There was a small price increase in July 2015, but that was a long time after usage had been banned.

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