By Ian Quinn
The GPC has issued new advice to GPs telling them that they can carry on using controversial 084 numbers, despite a recent ruling by the Government .
A ban came into force last month on the use of phone numbers that charge the public or patients a premium rate to contact the NHS.
However, GP leaders have stressed that the change in the law means 084 numbers can still be used if call charges are no more expensive that those of the equivalent local calls.
The GPC said many practices valued 084 numbers because they improved patient access by providing extra functionality.
The advice reads: ‘The legislation does not mean that the use of 084 numbers in itself has been banned. As long as the tariff is equivalent to local rates, and the practice obtains a written guarantee from their phone supplier (usually NEG) that they are charging rates in line with local geographic calls, then they will be deemed to have fulfilled their medical services contract.
'If any legal action should be taken to challenge this, it would be against the Primary Care Trust (PCT) and not the practice.'
GP practices, it added, should obtain written confirmation from their phone service supplier that the charge for a call to their number is no more expensive than making an equivalent local call.
The DH had been assured by the main phone service supplier, NEG (Network Europe Group, a national provider of telephony services such as Surgery Line), that this is the case, it said.The GPC says practices can carry on using controversial 084 numbers