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GP's £327k queries over discharge data

Ministers are planning to order practices that use an 0870 number to offer a local rate alternative as well.

The move is seen as a compromise to an outright ban on GPs using the controversial numbers, which are charged at a more expensive rate.

A ban could cost surgeries tens of thousands of pounds to break contracts with companies supplying the systems.

Richard Chapman, chief executive of NEG, which has installed the systems in around 300 practices, said it could install a separate line that used a local number.

But Dr Hugh Taylor, a GP in Ongar, Essex, who uses one of the systems, said the compromise would be the worst of both worlds.

'If there is a standard rate charge for entry into the system there will be none of the fee generation and no lightening of the burden on practices,' he said. 'A ban would not be a bad thing as long as the costs were reimbursed.'

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