The idea has the backing of both the government and the opposition. But GPs warned that it would further erode doctors' position within primary care.
Dr Peter Holden, a GPC negotiator, said that simplification would benefit patients, but warned: ‘My concern is that it's being done to eventually cut GPs out of the loop.'
He said that the current system, under which surgery phone lines automatically redirect to the right provider out of hours, was more appropriate in maintaining a link between GPs and patients.
Lord Darzi's interim report last October said there may be benefits in adopting a three-digit number as a single point of contact. A spokesman confirmed that the DoH was currently ‘looking at how this might work'.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have proposed introducing ‘a single memorable number' to deal with all telephone triage calls.
A spokeswoman stressed that this wouldn't mean the abolition of NHS Direct.
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