It’s time to end this NHS phones rip-off

MCBT Letters to the editor
MCBT Letters to the editor

from David Hickson, address supplied

If our Nhs is to survive, the Gp telephone number scam must end, and if the government believes in the principles of the NHS it must act now.

I have compiled a database list of 1,366 GP surgeries in England, Scotland and Wales which benefit from subsidy at the expense of patients through use of 084 telephone numbers – a clear breach of the principle of “free at the point of need”.

These 084 numbers are invariably more expensive than the alternative 034 ‘geographic rate’ numbers for most, if not all, NHS patients to call.

GPs can vary their arrangements to switch from 084 to 034 numbers at any point during their contract.

Our taxes provide GPs with NHS funding to meet their expenses in providing the NHS services they deliver – that is how the system works, not through private arrangements made between patients and GPs.

Where a non-geographic number has a benefit – for example, for a national or regional service such as NHS Direct, the 034 equivalent must be immediately brought into use and offered, at least as an alternative.

As the cost of publicising a complete number change is perhaps prohibitive these alternatives must simply be switched on immediately. This will take only a few days to arrange.