Regular readers will be well aware of my campaign to stop GP practices using 084 telephone numbers.
Two local residents had contacted me to say they had received enormous bills after trying to book an appointment with their GPs. One ended up footing a bill for nearly £10 and the other for £30!
Calls to 084 numbers can cost a fortune – as much as 41p per minute when you use a mobile telephone. Often 084 numbers have a greeting message which tells people they are “first in the queue” when in fact no one is picking up. Using on 084 number saves the GP money but costs the patient extra. It’s simply not acceptable for GP’s to pocket the money and not provide their patients with a cheap and easy way to contact their doctor.
Yet when I dug deeper I discovered that 9 GP practices were still using 084 numbers without offering an alternative landline number for patients..
The local health authority said they were stuck in long-term contracts with large telephone companies. But that’s their problem, not the patents problem and it’s not a good enough answer. Also the NHS nationally has told GPs they must not use 084 numbers.
So I’ve been taking action myself. I’ve contacted every GP practice. There are now only two which stubbornly refuse to offer an alternative landline number for patients to ring. Many added a new line soon after I contacted them, which is real progress, but my campaign goes on. And I intend to work to make sure GPs answer their phones so that you are not kept waiting.
It is completely unacceptable that there are GP surgeries who have failed to change. Booking an appointment to see your GP shouldn’t be like calling to arrange car insurance, and certainly shouldn’t cost you the earth. I will not let go of this issue until all out GPs provide this basic service.
If you have experienced problems getting an appointment with your GP please get in touch with my office on 2020 8594 1333 or at [email protected] or by writing to me at 102 North Street, Barking, Essex IG11 8LA.