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Minister needs to take urgent action to stop GP surgeries using 0844 numbers – Sue Ramsey

29 May, 2012 - by Sue Ramsey


Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey has called on the Health Minister to take urgent action to stop GP surgeries using 0844 numbers.

The West Belfast MLA was speaking when as chair of the Health Committee at the Assembly she brought forward a motion asking the Minister what he is doing to rectify the situation.

The Sinn Féin MLA:

“We all support the principle of the health service being free at the point of use. This has to become a reality and we can’t have people in effect being charged £8 to make an appointment with their GP.

“This is what can happen when people phone GP surgeries that use 0844 numbers from a mobile phone as the charges are much higher than from a landline.

“Many families, particularly low-income households, may only have a pay-as-you-go mobile and callers looking to make appointments are often put on hold for long periods.

“We already know that social deprivation leads to health inequalities, and yet here we have a situation where the least able to pay in our society end up paying the most to access a basic health service.

“Ofcom – the communications regulator – contacted me to say they had seen the motion for today and are of the same view that the current system regarding 0844 numbers is unacceptable.

“The Minister needs to take urgent action to stop GP surgeries using 0844 numbers.”

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