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Government warns GPs over 084 phone charges

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government is to clamp down on GP practices using controversial 0844 telephone numbers in surgeries.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate, Ivan Lewis, parliamentary under secretary at the Department of Health, said it was not ‘consistent with best professional practice' to charge patients above the local rate.

The debate follows recent moves by PCTs to force GPs to ditch 0844 phone numbers, after consumer lobbyists accused practices of profiting from patients calls.

He said: ‘I urge them (GPs) to reflect on the fact that many of their patients will be on low incomes and particularly vulnerable. In those circumstances, they should consider whether it is consistent with best professional practice to go down the road of charging patients above the local rate.'

Mr Lewis warned GPs that the Government will shortly begin ‘a serious evidence-gathering process', that might lead to ‘even stronger guidance on what will be expected of GPs.'

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