Howarth's victory over high cost GP phone lines

September 14, 2009 1:47 PM

HowarthCambridge MP David Howarth is celebrating victory after the government pulled the plug on doctors charging patients premium rates to ring their surgeries.

But he has questioned why it took the government two years to make the decision and asks when it is going to be implemented?

Mr Howarth demanded the government tell doctors the truth about the high rate calls when they were considering switching to the 0844 and 0845 numbers in the autumn of 2007.

He wrote to the then Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, accusing the government of not giving out the correct advice and even leading doctors to believe that the numbers were 'low rate' when, in fact, they were more expensive than a standard local call.

Thousands of members of the public reacted angrily when an official review was carried out and now the government has announced the premium rates for calls to surgeries will be banned.

"This is very welcome news," said Mr Howarth. "But why did it have to take so long for the government to admit that this practice was wrong? And, after taking two years to make this decision, the government has still not decided when the ban will come into force.

"This is another example of a government which does a lot of talking but is slow to act even when it is clear that a practice is totally wrong."

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