Patients charged premium rate to call two GP surgeries in Brent
PUBLISHED: 13:21 19 February 2014 | UPDATED: 13:21 19 February 2014
A GP practice in Brent has been criticised for charging its patients a premium rate to book an appointment at both of its surgeries.
Local activists have backed calls for the Law Medical Group Practice to ditch its 0844 telephone lines which patients are forced to use if they want to see a doctor or nurse.
The health group which runs surgeries on Harrow Road, Wembley, and Wrottesley Road, Kensal Green, charge a 15p connection charge and cost between 5p per minute and 12p per minute to call from BT and Virgin Media landlines. Patients using a mobile phone face charges of up to 40p per minute – eight times more than a landline caller.
A patient at the Harrow Road branch said: “How can they justify charging premium rates to the most vulnerable members of our community? I despise the fact that I’m faced with a hefty phone bill every time I call to book an appointment with my doctor.”
More than eight per cent of GP surgeries use premium lines nationally, according to a National Audit office report.
Matthew Kelcher, of the Kensal Green Labour Action team said: “Residents in Kensal Green are facing a cost-of-living crisis with spiralling rents and soaring transport fares. It seems particularly unfair that some of our most vulnerable local residents, who are the most frequent users of GP services, are having to pay to use a premium rate number to make an appointment.”
The partners of the Law Medical Group have apologised to patients upset by the current telephone system and invited them to contact the practice so this can be discussed. They claim they have not received any guidance from the DoH prohibiting the use of 0844 numbers.
In a statement, they said: “It is stated that the cost of calling an 0844 number must be equal to local fixed line geographic calls, which calls to our Patient Line are. The practice uses an 0844 number due to certain benefits to our patients which include a queuing facility, meaning an avoidance of the engaged tone which occurs with most 020 numbers, and also the use of other phone options for patients, such as leaving a message on our cancellation line.
“The Law Medical Group Practice is currently looking into alternative telephone systems in order to come away from an 0844 number. In addition, the practice will always telephone patients, often to mobile telephones, at a considerable cost to us.”
Are you a Brent resident in Brent who has to call a premium rate number to book an appointment with your Brent-based GP? Contact the news desk on 020 7433 6244 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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