Own-initiative investigation against Patientline Limited about misuse of personal numbers

12 June 2006

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Complaint against: Patientline Ltd
Case opened: 15 December 2004
Case closed: 13 June 2005
Issue: Evaluation of progress in the meeting of compliance obligations with respect to the use of 070 Personal Numbers
Relevant Instrument: General Condition 17 of the General Conditions of Entitlement ("the General Conditions") which governs the allocation, adoption, and use of telephone numbers

Update note - 12 June 2006

On 13 June 2005 Ofcom issued Patientline with a section 94 notification of contravention which required Patientline to ensure that callers are able to reach patients at all of its hospital sites by using a direct dial 11-digit 070 Personal Number.

Patientline has now taken steps to ensure that callers to the significant majority of its hospital sites are able to reach patients using solely an 11-digit Personal Number.

Ofcom has further amended the 13 June 2005 notification of contravention to require Patientline to implement a compliant technical solution in respect of the remaining sites (representing a small proportion of Patientline's installed base of bedside terminals) when Patientline next upgrades its network functionality.

This decision follows representations that Ofcom has received from Patientline concerning the feasibility of introducing direct dialling using an 11 digit- Personal Number at certain of its hospital sites.

A non-confidential version of the amended notification has been prepared and is available at the link below.

This investigation relates to technical aspects of Patientline's use of 070 Personal Numbers and is completely separate from the investigation into the price of making telephone calls to hospital patients, which Ofcom completed in January 2006.

Representations concerning this notification

Patientline has until 19 June 2006 to make representations to Ofcom about the matters set out in the amended notification.

End of update note

Update note - 19 October 2005

Ofcom has amended the notification of contravention issued to Patientline on 13 June 2005 in order to to lengthen the deadline for compliance in respect of 25 specific sites by a further six months. Patientline remains bound by the original deadline of 13 December 2005 for its remaining sites, which constitute the significant majority of its hospital sites.

A non-confidential version of the amended notification has been prepared and is available at the link below.

Representations concerning this notification

Patientline has until 26 October 2005 to make representations to Ofcom about the matters set out in the amended notification.

End of update note

Update note – 28 June 2005

A non-confidential version of the decision has been prepared and is available at the link below.

End of update note

Ofcom has closed this case by issuing a notification of contravention to Patientline on 13 June 2005 under section 94 of the Communications Act 2003 (the "Act"). A non-confidential version of the notification is currently being prepared and will be published shortly. A summary of the decision follows.

On 15 December 2004 Ofcom opened this investigation to evaluate Patientline's progress in meeting its legal and regulatory obligations with respect to its use of 070 Personal Numbers. Specifically, Ofcom was concerned that callers are not able to directly contact a patient at all of Patientline's hospital sites using an 11-digit 070 Personal Number, and sought to establish the reasons for this.

Ofcom has now completed its investigation. Ofcom has concluded that Patientline's use of 070 Personal Numbers, at certain NHS hospital and trust sites, is inconsistent with its obligations under the General Conditions and the National Telephone Numbering Plan (the "Plan"). Patientline's use of 070 Personal Numbers in also inconsistent with Ofcom's published guidance regarding the appropriate use of the 070 Personal Numbering range.

Ofcom has therefore issued a notification to Patientline under section 94 of the Act. The notification sets out Patientline's failure to comply with General Condition 17 and the Plan. It gives Patientline until 13 December 2005 to ensure that callers are able to reach patients at all of its hospital sites by using a direct dial 11-digit 070 Personal Number.

The notification also requires that Patientline provide Ofcom with periodic updates in respect of its compliance with this requirement.

Representations concerning this notification

Patientline has until 14 July 2005 to make representations to Ofcom about the matters set out in the notification.

Background

This investigation followed a previous Ofcom investigation on the same issue. On 14 May 2004 Ofcom closed the previous investigation because Patientline informed Ofcom that it was implementing a new system. This system would have enabled callers to reach patients at all of Patientline's hospital sites by using a direct dial 11-digit 070 Personal Number. Therefore implementation of this new system would have resolved Ofcom's concerns that Patientline was not complying with its obligations under the General Conditions and the Plan.

Patientline subsequently informed Ofcom of a delay in the implementation of its new system. As a result, Ofcom opened this investigation. During the course of this investigation Ofcom has evaluated Patientline's progress in meeting its legal and regulatory obligations with respect to the use of 070 Personal Numbers.

Case Leader : Marvin Luttrell (020 7783 4516 e-mail: Marvin.Luttrell@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/00804/12/04

Text published when the case was opened

Own-initiative investigation against Patientline Limited about misuse of personal numbers

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Complaint against: Patientline Ltd
Case opened: 15 December 2004
Issue: Evaluation of progress in the meeting of compliance obligations with respect to the use of 070 Personal Numbers
Relevant instrument: General Condition 17 of the General Conditions of Entitlement ("the General Conditions") which governs the allocation, adoption, and use of telephone numbers

In the light of Ofcom's revised guidance on the use of the 070 number range, which it published on 24 January 2004, Ofcom opened an investigation on 19 February 2004 to consider whether Patientline's use of 070 numbers is in breach of Condition 17 of the General Conditions.

This revised guidance states in paragraph 14 that:

"The End-User cannot be in charge of their own number if that number can also be used to contact, e.g. through a switchboard, another End-User."

Ofcom closed that investigation on 14 May 2004 after it received details from Patientline of a proposed new system that would allow callers to directly contact a patient using an 11-digit 070 number (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/bulletins/comp_bull_index/comp_bull_ccases/closed_all/cw_654/). In closing the case, Ofcom stated that implementation of this new system would resolve Ofcom's concerns that Patientline was not complying with its obligations under the National Telephone Numbering Plan and the General Conditions or with Ofcom's revised guidance. Ofcom also stated that it would monitor Patientline's progress towards implementing the revised system.

Patientline has now informed Ofcom of a delay in the implementation of its revised system. As a result, Ofcom has opened a further investigation to consider the reasons for this delay. Where Ofcom determines that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a company is in breach of the General Conditions, Ofcom may issue a notification which may include setting out the required timescale for compliance.

Case Leader: Marvin Luttrell (020 7783 4516 e-mail: Marvin.Luttrell@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/00804/12/04