November 19, 2007 4:34 PM


Contact: 07703716961

Embargo: Immediate

19th November 2007

Cambridge MP, David Howarth, has today welcomed news from the Department of Health that doctors should no longer be using 0844 telephone numbers that charge patients extra to call their GPs.

This follows a call from Mr Howarth for clearer guidance on the issue.

The Lib Dem MP had joined the campaign by City Councillors Clare Blair and Jenny Bailey to make sure that patients are not charged up to 35p per minute to call their doctor. Investigations had shown that doctors were often unaware that switching to 0844 numbers could be so expensive for their patients.

Mr Howarth wrote to the Health Secretary Alan Johnson to ask why doctors do not get the information they need before switching to 0844 telephone numbers. He commented:

"Many doctors are unaware that calling 0844 numbers could prove so expensive. They are not getting the advice that they need before they sign up to these services.

"The Government has previously told doctors that 0844 and 0845 numbers were 'low rate', I would like to know why doctors are still not being told the truth about 0844 numbers."

Today in a statement to primary care trusts, the Department of Health said: "We do not expect GPs to break existing contracts, but they should not be entering new ones that would involve patients being charged more than for a local call."

Today Mr Howarth said: "I am glad to see the guidance has been clarified. This is a real victory for our local campaigners."


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