As at 3 June this year, there were 44 GP practices using 084 telephone numbers, which represents just over 4 per cent of the total number of practices in Scotland.
We intend to discuss the issue with the Scottish general practitioners committee, which is supportive of the idea that all patients should pay local telephone rates and is considering offering guidance to those practices that use 084 telephone numbers to encourage them to review their current telephone contracts. The Scottish Government would support that.
I am sure that the cabinet secretary will recall the representations that I have been making on behalf of many of my constituents, who are having to bear the increased costs associated with the use of such telephone numbers by GP practices. Does she agree that it is wholly unacceptable for patients to bear those increases in their phone bills, which, for the many who need to make regular and repeated calls to their doctor's surgery, have been significant?
I can understand that view and the frustration on the part of patients. I am sure that Angela Constance will appreciate that only a small number of GP practices in Scotland use 084 telephone numbers, but the practice can lead to increased costs for the patients who use such services. That is why it is important that we work with the general practitioners committee to encourage GP practices that use such numbers to offer local telephone rates instead, if possible. I will be more than happy to keep Angela