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Government launches review of use of expensive phone numbers in NHS

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Calling the NHS may soon be cheaper, as a result of a government consultation launched this week into expensive 084 numbers.

The number of NHS organisations, including NHS Direct, using 084 numbers has increased in recent years but calling it costs more than a local rate call.

The 14-week consultation from the Department of Health will look to combine the services provided by 084 at the price of a local call.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw said the Department of Health received regular complaints about the number. Many object to paying more than local rate for NHS services, which should be ‘free at the point of need’.

Mr Bradshaw said: ‘We are concerned that some people are paying above the odds to contact the NHS. For people on low incomes who need to contact their local doctor or hospital regularly, those costs can soon mount up.’

The 084 number allows callers to wait in a queue if the line is busy, and to be redirected without dialing a new number. It also allows callers to book appointments or order repeat prescriptions via an automated system.

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