NHS Direct has announced the launch of a useful app for smart mobiles - "NHS Direct mobile app - for trusted health advice straight to your pocket",
but it continues to withhold the 0345 4647 alternative "Geographic Rate" telephone number, which would save mobile callers from incurring unnecessary premium charges.
0345 4647 has been set up for use as an alternative to 0845 4647, but NHS Direct refuses to make it available for use.
Only around 25% of non-business voice telephone calls are now made using BT, where the effect of perverse legacy regulation enables callers to 0845 numbers to avoid the premium charges which are normally associated with calls to 084 ("revenue sharing") numbers.
The cost subsidy of around 2p per minute from which NHS Direct benefits through use of a 0845 number is generally translated into a premium charge to callers. Tariff arrangements however mean that these calls are excluded from packages which include unlimited calls to Geographic Rate numbers. The effect is seen with landlines but most markedly with all mobiles. Of the common providers, T-Mobile shows this most clearly.
A T-mobile contract holder would be able to call 0345 4647 for free, but pays 41p per minute to call 0845 4647, only 2p of which is a charge for accessing a NHS service.
No need for the expense and confusion of a complete number change - NHS Direct must make the 0345 4647 alternative available immediately.
This applies to the proposed non-NHS English Health Service, as well as NHS Wales.
NHS Scotland must do the same with NHS 24, by adopting 0345 4 24 24 24 alongside 0845 4 242424.