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BT call charges cut may help GPs

BT has scrapped call charges for 0845 and 0870 numbers in a move which could ease pressure on GPs to ditch their 084 numbers.

Calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers can now be included in BT customers' call plans, making them free of charge.

At least 800 practices in England are thought to use 084 numbers – with as many as one in three surgeries doing so in some parts of the country. Numbers beginning with 084 are also used by some hospitals and primary care trusts.

The cut by BT, which applies to 14m customers does not apply to 0844 numbers used by a large number of practices, but could pave the way for further moves by BT and other providers to include this category.

Last month the Government announced a review of doctors and NHS departments using 084 numbers, because customers complained they should not be charged more to call for medical help.

GPs using the numbers argue that it enables them to provide patients with a better service, and cuts down the time taken to contact surgeries by routing calls more effectively.

The public consultation seeks views from patients, GPs, NHS bodies, the telecommunications industry and other interested parties, and closes on 31 March 2009.

BT has made calls to 0845 numbers free in a move which could ease pressure on GPs to ditch their 084 numbers BT has made calls to 0845 numbers free in a move which could ease pressure on practices to ditch their 084 numbers

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