Patients in rip-off claim at Kilsyth surgery.

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CALLS to scrap a controversial premium telephone number at a surgery have been voiced by surgery users and politicians.

The issue has come to light afterNorth Lanarkshire Council finally gave planning permission for a £7.8 million medical centre next to Kilsyth’s swimming pool. This will replace the existing facility at Burngreen.

And a change of address should also mean a change of number for this potential lifeline according to Jamie Hepburn MSP who has been inundated with complaints and has written to the surgery about the charges.

The News & Chronicle has h eard reports of vulnerable elderly patients facing waits over 20 minutes as they are charged 10 pence per minute from landlines and much more from mobiles.

Mr Hepburn said: “I believe the new medical centre is a perfect opportunity for all health partners involved to reassess their current practises and put in place measures which would best benefit the community by scrapping the 0844 number and introducing a local one.

“I am well aware of the difficulties that people have encountered when trying to get an appointment and the financial burden this number has inflicted on so many.

His Scottish Nationalist colleague Alan Stevenson has also received complaints .

He said: “It serves as a barrier to GP access as I have often heard stories of people being on hold for extended periods of time. It’s resulted in large telephone bills. or not being able to get an appointment.

“Even when people visit the surgery in person, they are being told to use the premium rate number,’’ he added.

However, a spokesperson for NHS Lanarkshire said: “We will be installing a new telephone system in the new health centre which will be more flexible and will use a local dialling code.”