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Sunday, 22 January 2012

084 telephone numbers in the NHS - proposal for resolution

I have prepared and published an outline proposal for how the government, through the Department for Health, may now deal with the situation of the NHS GPs who continue to use 084 telephone numbers in breach of contractual requirements introduced in April 2010.

This has been done ahead of the Westminster Hall adjournment debate at 12:30 on Tuesday 24 January, which is covered by this general briefing.

The full draft of my proposal is published here.

It is summarised below:

The following steps are necessary:

Clarify the position
The following objective truths must be made clear to all:
084 numbers are "banned"
The ban is not stated explicitly, however this can be the only effect, under current conditions.
The terms of existing arrangements may be varied to enable compliance
Migration to the 034 equivalent of each 084 number is a "reasonable" option available to those who wish to, or are obliged to, retain use of a non-geographic number.
Remind (clustered) PCT Chief Executives of their statutory duty
Each PCT has a primary duty to all citizens whom it serves, elements of which are declared in statute; other relationships are important, but secondary:
GPs and the BMA
Guidance from the BMA to its members does not guide the formation of PCT policy.
The Department of Health
Assistance may be provided to PCTs by the Department of Health, however the absence of such assistance does not excuse any failure to perform statutory duties.
Ensure that the will of parliament and government policy is carried out
Enforcement of provisions approved by parliament is important for there to be faith in our democracy, and the government commitment for the principles of our NHS to be protected must be seen to be effective, if it is to withstand challenge and attack of its proposals for yet further liberalisation.
Engage opponents who are able to assist
Those who have continued to oppose the intentions of the provisions, and are seen to be impeding their implementation, must now be brought "on board".
GP representative groups
The BMA and LMCs must represent the interests of the members in preventing them from being made subject to enforcement action - by urging proper compliance, rather than encouraging evasion.
Telephone network and system providers
Companies such as Talk Talk and the Daisy Group, who may wish to continue to serve the public sector, should be persuaded to do all they can to enable their GP clients to comply, by offering the best possible terms for migration to 03 numbers.
Ensure a mechanism is in place to protect the principles of the NHS
Proposed changes to the management structure of the NHS should make this task easier than it is under the present arrangements, however an effective mechanism is required immediately to deliver the required effect on this particular issue.
My role
I stand available and ready to assist in any way I can, being totally independent and having considerable knowledge and understanding of this particular issue.

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