General Practitioners: Telephone Services

Health written question – answered on 14th June 2011.

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Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Education)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will estimate the proportion of GP surgeries in England which use premium 0844 numbers for patients seeking appointment; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

The Department has made no assessment of the proportion of general practitioner surgeries in England that use 0844 numbers for patients seeking appointments.

The Department issued guidance and directions to national health, service bodies in December 2009 on the cost of telephone calls, which prohibit the use of telephone numbers which charge the patient more than the equivalent cost of calling a geographical number to contact the NHS. It is currently the responsibility of primary care trusts to ensure that local practices are compliant with the directions and guidance.

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David Hickson - fair telecoms campaign
Posted on 15 Jun 2011 11:18 pm (Report this annotation)

It should be noted that in a recent debate Mr Burns explained that PCTs were being abolished because they were "unnecessary". This may give some idea as to the importance which he attaches to efforts to maintain the principle of "free at the point of need" in the NHS!

The Department's failure to provide proper briefing and information to PCTs has left them open to be misled and deceived by those who argue that this form of co-payment is proper and are therefore opposed to the intended ban on use of revenue sharing telephone numbers in the NHS. (Does Mr Burns himself support the idea of co-payment?)

He fails to address the question posed by Mr Wright.
Although I have provided the relevant information to the Department of Health, all sourced from "NHS Choices", it continues to disregard it.

The answer to the specific question is found, with much supporting detail, at -

This is for 0844 numbers only. Including 0845 numbers also, the proportion is 12.25% - 1,261 surgeries out of a total of 10,298.

The full database of these GPs, all in breach of their NHS contracts, is found at There are links to my bloggings and other information.