Patients face calling premium rate lines to ring three Barking and Dagenham GP surgeries

Unwell residents trying to get hold of their GP face calling premium rate phonelines at three surgeries in the borough.

The practices, listed right, are still advertising 0844 numbers for their services - which can cost mobile users up to 41p per minute - as well as a cheaper local number.

Marie Kearns, CEO Healthwatch, said: “Local numbers are cheaper for patients and why should some people have to pay more for their telephone calls to the doctor?”

The issue of premium rate numbers has been flagged up to the borough’s Clinical Commissioning Group which said the nine surgeries are advertising the premium rates as they are still in contract but are publicising the local number to patients.

A reluctance amongst surgeries to respond to requests for information was also revealed by Healthwatch annual report, which was presented to Barking and Dagenham Council’s health and wellbeing board.

Just two of the borough’s 39 GP practices initially replied to Healthwatch’s request for information about the pilot surge appointment system, designed to offer 25,000 extra appointments to patients in response to demand.

All practices were contacted again but the response was still poor and a Freedom of Information request sent to all 41 practices prompted just 17 responses in total.

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Marie said the failure of GPs to respond to requests for information made it harder to monitor services. “The role of Healthwatch is to be a critical friend to people who are delivering health and social care services so we do try to keep a good relationship with people but when they don’t co-operate it is difficult,” she said.

“I do understand that GPS are under a lot of pressure but if they are providing these figures for the CCG, it can’t be any extra work for them.”

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