As part of my ongoing campaign to stop local residents from being charged a fortune to call their GP, I have written to Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, to ask him to intervene:
Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Health
Department of Health
16 November 2012
The use of 084 telephone numbers by GP practices
I am writing to you to express my anger about the continued use of 084 (non-geographic) telephone numbers by GP practices.
I have identified at least 9 GP practices in my constituency who use 084 numbers as a point of contact for my constituents.
The cost to call 084 numbers can be extortionate especially if the call is made from a mobile telephone. This is getting more important over time as people rely on using their mobile phones.
The problem has been highlighted by two constituents recently. One incurred a bill for £9.96 and another for nearly £30 just for trying to book an appointment to see their GPs. NHS patients should not have to incur such unacceptable high costs from using the NHS.
As you know, the regulations clearly state that a call to a GP’s practice should be no more expensive than the cost of a call to a local landline number. This includes the cost of making a call from a mobile phone.
The GP practices in my constituency which use 084 numbers are either unaware of the regulations, or feel they are locked into long-term telephony contracts from which they cannot escape. However, there is no reason why they could not have varied these arrangements. The fact that they have failed to do this in the last two years is a sign that action needs to be taken.
It is clear that the regulations are not being properly enforced and that stronger sanctions need to be given to given to primary care trusts. They are responsible for identifying GP practices which have not followed the guidance issued by the Department of Health.
I would ask you to urgently look at this issue. I am sure I am not alone in experiencing this unacceptable practice. I would also ask you to take urgent action to ensure GPs stop using 084 numbers for their patients.
Margaret Hodge MP