Calls to GPs cost up to 20p a min

Park Surgery, Horsham which now offers an 01403 number alongside its more expensive 0844 line -photo by steve cobb

Park Surgery, Horsham which now offers an 01403 number alongside its more expensive 0844 line -photo by steve cobb

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Doctors surgeries in Horsham are still only offering 0844 contact numbers despite Department of Health guidance against the use of high rate numbers.

Outside Horsham, surgeries use geographical numbers, but Holbrook Surgery, Park Surgery and Riverside Surgery still have 0844 numbers even though the guidelines were brought in two years ago. They are not premium rate, but are more expensive to call from mobiles and non-BT landlines.

Barry Lynch a patient of Riverside surgery said his mobile operator charged him 20p a minute for a call his GP recently.

Park Surgery, featured in the County Times on this subject last year, now provides an 01403 number alongside its 0844 number.

A spokesman for NHS Sussex said: “No practice in Sussex uses a premium rate number. However, 084 numbers can cost more to call than other landlines.

“The exact cost depends on your individual phone package. In the last few years, across the country, many practices bought 084 numbers as they can help with directing callers to the right person. Practices are now required to check whether a person calling their practice pays more than the cost of a call to an 01 number - a geographical telephone number. If that is the case then the practice must take action.

“Terminating 084 numbers before the end of the contract can incur heavy fees - in order to make the best use of public money some GP practices have taken actions such as offering an 01 number alongside the 084 number or calling patients back. This is in line with national requirements.”

“We take our responsibility on this matter very seriously and continue to work with GP practices to ensure there are no barriers to patients contacting their GP practice.”

The County Times asked Holbrook and Riverside Surgeries for comment, but did not receive a reply.