Outrage at surgery’s use of premium lines

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PATIENTS at Munroe Medical Centre in Spalding are outraged the surgery is still using “expensive” 0844 telephone numbers, despite being asked by the Government not to.

The Lincolnshire Free Press was contacted following an investigation by Which magazine claiming companies using premium rate numbers are making money out of people’s calls for help.

It states: “Although with some phone operators (at some times of day) it is slightly cheaper to call 0844 than it is to call an 01 or 02 number at standard rates, this is often not the case.

“And as 0844 calls are never included in inclusive call packages, phone customers with inclusive calls must always pay an additional fee to call an 0844 number.”

In a random check of 100 surgeries across 10 postcodes, Which highlighted the Munroe Centre as one of only eight surgeries in the UK still using the 0844 number.

Nine other surgeries in the PE10 and PE11 postcode areas surrounding Spalding are listed as carrying local STD codes.

One patient told the Free Press: “My mother uses the surgery and I look after her telephone bill and a significant amount is for making appointments to see the doctor.”

The Government called for surgeries to stop using 0844 numbers in 2009, which cost up to 8p a minute, although it didn’t impose a blanket ban.

Adrian Audis, senior contracts manager for NHS Lincolnshire said: “Following the publication The NHS (Primary Medical Services) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2010, NHS Lincolnshire received written confirmation from all GP surgeries in Lincolnshire using 0844, confirming that patients are not being charged any more than the geographical rate.

“The legislation does not ban the use of 0844 numbers. After recent House of Commons debate on this subject on January 24, NHS Lincolnshire has written to all practices within Lincolnshire reiterating the obligations governing the use of an 084 (non-geographical) telephone number arising from The NHS (Primary Medical Services) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2010 and also included a questionnaire for those practices using 0844 numbers to confirm their compliance with these regulations and what actions they are taking to mitigate costs to the patients.”