Millions of patients are still being forced to dial 0844 and 0845 numbers to contact their GP. These expensive numbers could cost up to 40p per minute to call.
According to the NHS Choices website, surgeries were told to stop using these expensive numbers five years ago, yet around 350 continue to use them. The guidance which was issued during 2009 stated that no telephone line should be implemented if it costs more than dialling a normal geographical number.
This practice has resulted in about two million patients having to pay up to 40p per minute simply to call their GP for an appointment or to obtain test results.
The Daily Mail has stated that surgeries receive some of the income that is generated by these calls, but doctors insist that this does not result in a profit for their surgery as the revenue is spent on the installation and operation of the systems.
The cost for calls to 084 numbers are the same as normal landline calls, however campaigners have pointed out that about 15% of the population no longer have landlines.
The Fair Telecoms Campaign group have warned that sick people may stop seeking medical help. David Hickson, the group campaigner, said the fear of running up an exorbitant phone bill may result in increased pressure on hospital A&E departments. He said that it is intolerable that no action has been taken in this regard as surgeries are in breach of defined terms of their contracts, which was clarified in a letter during November.
The argument of campaigners is that patients should not have to pay to call a Health Service, which is meant to be free.
Image Credit: liz west