Government may ban practices from using 084 numbers

GP practices could be banned from using 084 telephone numbers, the government has said.

Ben Bradshaw (Photograph:BP Photography)

The 084 code provides a number of functions not available with standard phone calls, such as a queuing system which allows callers to connect to busy lines rather than re-dialling.

But calls to the number are also more expensive than local calls. The extra income is shared with the organisation taking the call.

The government is now holding a 14-week consultation on whether to ban NHS organisations from using 084 numbers.

‘We know that some people value the additional services that 084 numbers can offer,’ said health minister Ben Bradshaw.

‘But others object to being charged more than the cost of a local call to access NHS services.

'For people on low incomes who need to contact their local doctor regularly, those costs can soon mount up.'

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said that he welcomed the consultation. But he pointed to evidence that 084 numbers have improved patient satisfaction, and noted that the government had encouraged NHS organisations to move to the new system in order to meet access targets.

‘We believe the best way forward is for the government to work with the telephone industry to make sure the companies that supply these systems move to local-rate call arrangements with NHS organisations,’ he added.

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