Sunday, January 13, 2008

GP Phone line Scandal

I was totally shocked to open my phone bill yesterday to discover that it was much higher than usual. Surely I couldn't have gone that mad voting for Alesha to win Strictly Come Dancing?

The cause of this high bill totally shocked me. Regular readers will know that both my husband and I have been ill over the holidays, Bob being quite seriously affected. We have spent more time at our GP surgery than we ever have before. Trouble is, the only way of getting an appointment is to ring on the day. If you don't ring early, you will simply not be seen that day and you'll have to go through it all again tomorrow. Bob was so ill that I couldn't take the chance of having to wait.

When you ring up the first thing you hear is "This is the Medical Practice, please wait until we connect you to the surgery." Most of the time, the next thing the artificial voice says is "We are experiencing high call volumes. Please call back at a less busy time."

This is just frustrating, so you would think - but for each one of those abortive calls, we were charged £0.095 plus VAT. The total sum wasted on calls to the surgery was £15.68. In two weeks. Now, we can afford to take that kind of unexpected hit. Many people who would be contacting the surgery could not. The other important point is that our phone deal gives us free calls to UK numbers as long as they don't start with 08 or 09. Our Practice has an 08 number which will be charged much more highly from mobiles. Having landlines is increasingly uncommon among those on low incomes because of the high connection costs.

GPs are usually the first point of contact you have with the health service when you are ill. It is an absolute outrage that people should have to pay such high rates to access this vital service. Again we see those on lower incomes being penalised more than the rich.

I think we should have a campaign for all GP's surgeries to be accessible by a landline with a local exchange number with no call charge if you are unable to get through to the queue. Wh ultimately pockets my £15.68? Is it the phone company or the surgery?

This scandalous practice must end and people have to be able to make appointments with their GP at minimal cost to themselves.

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