Call costs rise for Cambridge patients

July 26, 2007 10:00 AM

Lib Dem City Councillors are campaigning against high cost telephone calls to local GPs' surgeries.

East Chesterton councillors Clare Blair and Jenny Bailey discovered that NHS surgeries in Cambridge have been switching to revenue generating 0844 numbers which are costing patients up to 20p per minute. The councillors were very pleased when their local surgery on Nuffield Road agreed to retain its local 01223 number but another four surgeries in Cambridgeshire, including Bridge Street and The Red House in Cambridge have already moved to the higher rate number.

Councillor Blair is now campaigning for Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust to prevent other health services switching from local numbers and to insist that those who have already changed reinstate a local number as an alternative for their patients. She commented:

"Many people will not realise that calling their doctor on an 0844 number could cost them as much as 35p per minute on a mobile phone. These numbers are not included in monthly price plans on mobile phones or on BT land lines and so this is an additional tax on the ill which will particularly hit those on low incomes and the many patients who now only use mobile phones.

"A percentage of the cost of every call goes back to the surgery. The NHS should not be generating an income from their patients' calling their doctor."

Cllr Clare Blair and Mayor Jenny Bailey outside Nuffield Road Surgery

Nuffield Road surgery has decided not to use an 0844 number

Guidance from the Department of Health makes clear that NHS services should use telephone numbers which are cheapest for their patients. However this hasn't stopped surgeries in Cambridgeshire switching to the more expensive 0844 numbers.

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