TWO doctors surgeries in Woolston are being investigated by NHS Warrington over claims new phone call charges are breaking regulations.

The phone number used at the Holes Lane Surgery and Manchester Road Surgery was changed this month from Warrington’s 01925 code to 08443.

It means that patients on payment plans that provide free local calls will now have to pay to call their doctor under a service called Surgery Line.

According to the General Medical Services contract – the agreement between GP practices and the NHS – calls to a doctor should not cost more than a call to a local landline.

It is believed using the new number will cost 12.5p to connect and then 4p a minute from any landline, with that rising to 40p a minute from a mobile.

Connection from a pay phone will cost 40p and then 20p a minute.

A complaint has been made to the PCT by NHS campaigner David Hickson, who says the Woolston surgeries – both owned by Doctor Wadsworth and Partners – are the first in the area to opt for Surgery Line.

He said: “Without any argument this breaches a legal contract.

“We pay for the NHS through taxes but we don’t pay for it as we use it and not through premium phone charges.

“In many cases we are talking about people who can least afford it, like pensioners.

“I don’t think anyone will say that is right. It bites for the individual and the community.

“The PCT has got to act and put a stop to this. They are there to protect patients.”

But Debbie Coombes, practice manager at Holes Lane and Manchester Road, said that Surgery Line owner the Daisy Group informed her that the new number did not breach any regulations.

She said: “We chose to change over to the new system to improve patient access and to give patients the ability to use automated appointments.”

A spokesman for NHS Warrington confirmed that the PCT is aware of the change and is investigating this matter.