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How to...Keep on top of phone costs

New developments in the provision and use of telecommunication services mean that practices need to

review all aspects of their phone service provision. The objective is to have systems that allow efficient but cost-effective communications between practice staff, patients and other parts of the health service. To achieve this there needs to be an awareness of different service providers and how to use such services in the most efficient manner.

1 All staff should be aware of costs of different phone calls, and that calls to mobiles and 0870 numbers are significantly more expensive. Consider having a 'bar' placed on premium rate and international calls and tell staff to use the internet to find phone numbers instead of using expensive directory inquiry services.

2 If staff are unable to deal with an inquiry or if doctors are busy, ask callers to call back. This is especially important if they are using a mobile. However, good manners mean you can't really do this more than once.

3 Register with www.nhs.net to allow texting via the website. This is free and allows reminders or requests to contact the practice to be sent to patients.

4 Review the charges of your telephone service provider and be prepared to switch. Cost comparisons have now become extremely complicated with a plethora of tariffs and discount schemes available.

5 Take out an additional account with 'call 1899'. Here you prefix the number with '1899' and normal landline calls cost 3p whatever the length. Ideal for the calls to heartsink patients!

6 Cheap phone calls via the internet (VOIP) are becoming increasingly available and are undoubtedly the future. Adaptations can be made to phone systems to permit these but can impact on internet bandwidth at the practice. Check with your local IT support.

Getting the best deals can be complicated and time-

consuming, but significant cost savings can be made.

Dr Peter Saul is a GP in Rhos near Wrexham

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