GP practices in Bradford are forcing the most vulnerable people to fork out for expensive phone calls to make appointments to see their doctors, MPs have been told.

Shipley MP Philip Davies told the Commons almost a dozen practices covered by Bradford and Airedale Primary Care Trust were using an 0844 telephone number in their practices.

According to British Telecom prices for calls to the line can range from 4p to 10p per minute higher than the price of a regular local telephone call.

Mr Davies asked the Government to make a statement over the use of 0844, 0845 and 0870 numbers after he was told of constituents' concerns.

In response Commons leader Jack Straw said: "I am aware that those numbers are charged at a slightly higher rate, depending on which precise exchange number is used."

He also said he would be speaking to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt about the concerns.

Mr Davies said: "I know we are not talking about people facing bankruptcy having to pay higher charges but it is the principle of the matter.

"By definition the vast majority of people calling are likely to be some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in the community and it leaves quite a bad taste in the mouth that they are having to pay more money."

A letter from the Department of Health to all tPCT chief executives was sent out in December from Health Minster Norman Warner.

The letter said: "I would like to draw your attention to the Central Office of Information guidance on telephone numbering and ask you to ensure that NHS dentists, NHS opticians and GP practices, including out-of-hours providers in your area, consider carefully the best option for their patients who should not have to pay over the odds to contact their local services."

Mr Warner said while it was up to individual practices to decide what is in their customer's best interests, normally this will mean the lowest cost per call to the patient.

A spokesman for Bradford and Airedale Teaching PCT said: "It is a matter for individual GP practices to decide what phone numbers to use, however we would always encourage them to act in the best interests of their patients and we are not aware of any practice in the district using any of the banned high cost numbers.

"There are 11 practices using the 0844 numbers, which are allowed, and we will monitor any changes to this guidance and advise practices accordingly."

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