A new ‘03’ telephone number will come into force at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust from Friday, February 28.
The trust’s main switchboard number will change from a 0844 number to 0344 811 8111 which patients, visitors and members of the public should use for all general enquiries.
The changes are the result of much behind-the-scenes planning by Northumbria Healthcare which has listened to feedback from stakeholders about the 0844 prefix which has been in place since 2007.
As one of the largest geographically-spread NHS organisations in England, the centralised number was brought in to help people easily navigate the trust’s vast array of services, wards, departments and many thousands of staff.
As the 0844 contract has now expired, Northumbria Healthcare has used the opportunity to introduce the new non-geographic 03 number which means anyone calling switchboard will be charged a local rate, regardless of whether they are using a landline or mobile. Previously, only BT landline callers to the 0844 number were charged a local rate of 4p per minute.
From Friday 28 February, all callers to the new 0344 811 8111 switchboard number will be charged a local rate and the number will also be included in the available minutes within ‘free minute’ calls packages.
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, regardless of whether they use a landline or mobile.”
From 28 February, Northumbria Healthcare’s contact centre number will also change to 0344 811 8118. This is the number patients can call to discuss their appointments after being referred by their GP.
Families and visitors can also still use the direct dial local numbers for most of the trust’s wards and departments which are available at www.northumbria.nhs.uk.