We took your concerns about GPs’ phone numbers to the Health Minister and got some interesting answers. But now we need more ‘concrete evidence’ to prove that some GPs still aren’t playing by the rules…
Last year you told us about GP surgeries still using expensive phone numbers, despite their contract saying they shouldn’t.
Since then we’ve be looking into this, gathering evidence, and meeting with the telecoms regulator Ofcom, and MPs.
Landlines, mobiles and payphones all count
Last Tuesday we attended a debate about this issue in parliament between Bob Ainsworth MP and the Health Minister, Simon Burns MP. We went hoping that the Minister would state exactly how the Department of Health plans to stop GPs using expensive phone numbers.
While he didn’t tell us that, we were encouraged to hear him state – on the record – that any phone service ‘should not cost patients any more than a local landline call’.
We know from what you’ve told us that there has been some confusion as to whether mobile phones were also included, with some GPs and PCTs saying they weren’t. The Minister’s exact words in response to this were: ‘the regulations cover landlines, mobiles and payphones equally’. This means that GPs cannot say they’re sticking to the rules if calling from a mobile phone costs more.
According to Ofcom, 15% of households in the UK do not have a landline. The Minister also said that in 2011 ‘for the first time, the majority of call minutes originated from mobile phones’. We know it is almost always more expensive to call an 0844 number from a mobile phone than either 01, 02 or 03, so we welcomed this clarity.
However, we were disappointed to hear the Minister say he’d been unable to find any evidence of GP surgeries using expensive numbers. So we will be sending him the ‘precise, concrete evidence’ he has asked for. So do you still have to use an expensive phone number to call your local GP surgery?