DoH warns on phone charges

The DoH has warned practices that using telephone systems that charge patients more than a local call rate breaches the GMS contract.

Changes to the GMS contract that came into effect on 1 April make clear that GP practices can no longer use premium rate numbers. David Hickson, who campaigns against the use of premium rate numbers, said the change meant GPs who use 0844 numbers would have to arrange migration to an alternative number, such as an 0344 prefix.

'This is probably a better option for them rather than incurring the charges that would be levied if the contract for the telephone system that relies on this service were to be terminated early,' Mr Hickson said.

A DoH spokeswoman said the government had made an announcement in September 2009 stating that 'the use of phone numbers that charge the public or patients a premium rate to contact the NHS' would be banned.

'The department worked together with the GPC to integrate the legislative changes into the GP contracts.

'This legislature came into force on 1 April and the NHS will be reminded of this very shortly.'

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