GPC blames PCOs for high phone charges

The GPC has rejected media claims that GPs are cashing in on premium phone lines that charge patients up to 40p a minute.

Primary care organisations (PCOs) across the UK are urging GPs to replace their landlines with 0844 and 0845 numbers, which cost patients 4p more per minute from a landline.

The cost can reach 40p per minute when a call is made from a mobile, and many overseas networks do not recognise the numbers, making it impossible for patients to contact their GP from abroad.

But GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said GPs are not pocketing the cash. He said telephone companies are luring PCOs into persuading practices to use the numbers in exchange for free telephone systems, a cost usually covered by PCO budgets.

The DoH banned practices from adopting some types of high-cost line in 2005, including numbers with an 0870 prefix.

However, it advised that phone systems with 0844 or 0845 prefixes were acceptable because premiums for calling these lines were not as high.

Dr Buckman said: 'It is unfair to say that GPs have been profiting at the expense of their patients. Naturally many PCOs are pushing them.'

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