The contentious issue of premium-rate phone numbers being used to charge the public and patients for contacting the NHS is to finally be resolved.
Health Minister Mike O’Brien has confirmed that the use of 084 numbers in the NHS is to be banned and added: “For people on low incomes, and for those who need to contact their local doctor or hospital regularly, these costs can soon build up.
“We want to reassure the public that when they contact their local GP or hospital, the cost of their call will be no more expensive than if they had dialled a normal landline number.”
News that the numbers are to be banned was welcomed by Dr Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee (GPC).
He said: “Patients who call their surgery because they’re ill shouldn’t be penalised because they have to call an 084 number, so we’re pleased that the phone companies who supply these lines to practices have agreed to ensure that their tariffs are in line with local charges.”
The Department of Health will work with the GPC over the coming months to integrate the legislative changes into the GP contracts.
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“Glad to hear it, now if only we could rid ourselves of those rotten phone menu systems too … ” – Name and address withheld