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Departmental Telephone Services

Volume 471: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many 0845 or similar cost telephone numbers are used by (a) his Department, (b) the NHS and (c) related departmental bodies for public access to services. (179201)

The Department's main public facing telephone inquiry service, the Customer Service Centre, has a geographic number (020 7210 4850). The Department also uses a Government wide switchboard service for contact with Richmond House (020 7210 3000). There are individual switchboard services for the Department's main buildings and these have geographic telephone numbers.

The Department's Executive Agencies, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency also have geographic numbers.

The Department has a healthy start scheme (formerly known as the welfare foods helpline), a service operated under contract to provide assistance to individual members of the public with inquiries about welfare foods e.g. milk tokens. The number for members of the public is 0845 607 6823. The text phone (for minicom users) is 0845 601 7698. The numbers for commercial providers are 08707 203063/201688. The nursery milk reimbursement unit helpline provides information to nurseries and other early years providers. This number is 08707 203055. These telephone numbers will be reviewed as part of the contract review in 2008.

The Department does not collect information on the telephone numbers used by local national health service organisations and general practitioner practices. Under the NHS next stage review options are being considered in adopting a 3-digit number as a single point of access to NHS urgent care.

The NHS Direct telephone advice service, which currently operates on 0845 4647, will shortly have to change its number. The Department has had a preliminary discussion with Ofcom about the possibility of securing a 3-digit number for NHS Direct.

The Department has 25 arms length bodies and a number of national programmes e.g. NHS Employers. Information about telephone services for these bodies is not held centrally and cannot be provided except at disproportionate cost.

The Department also grants funds a wide range of voluntary and charitable organisations to provide services relating to health and healthy living. Some of these organisations include telephone helplines as part of their services. It is not possible, without incurring disproportionate cost, to identify individual projects with telephones services and whether geographic telephone numbers are used.