Call for evidence on GP’s ‘rip-off’ phone numbers

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A CONSUMER watchdog has made a national call for evidence after Dearne MP John Healey warned many GPs are using ‘rip-off’ phone numbers despite them being outlawed.

Mr Healey highlighted the problem after carrying out research which showed more than two thirds of GP practices in Rotherham and more than a quarter of GP practices in Barnsley are still using higher rate 0845 and 0844 numbers.

These numbers can cost patients up to 40p per minute if calling from a mobile and 12p per minute – plus a set up fee of up to 13p – if calling from a landline not provided by BT.

Now the issue has been discussed in Parliament and consumer organisation Which? is gathering evidence to take to the Government.

They want to hear from anyone who has had to cough up high charges to call a doctor.

Anyone willing to come forward is asked to send an email giving the name of your surgery, your phone company, and tariff and bills showing the calls to which.campaigns@which.co.uk.

Mr Healey said: “It is costing patients more to access what should be an open NHS service.

“Telecoms companies and some GPs are profiting at the expense of patients, when Government guidelines created by the last Labour Government, but not enforced properly by the Coalition, rule this out.

“When families are finding money is tight and everyone is trying to cut costs no one should be paying over the odds to get in touch with their doctor.”

Louise Hanson, head of campaigns at Which?, said: “Patients who need to contact their GP to make an appointment or get advice should not have to pay over the odds for a phone call.

“The government needs to enforce its own rules to stop GPs using these expensive 084 numbers.”