MEMBERS of the Enfield Over-50s Forum are celebrating a major step forward in their battle to stop GP surgeries making extra money by using premiumrate telephone numbers.

The Forum has been complaining for many years to Enfield Primary Care Trust (PCT) to stop surgeries from using the 0844 number altogether, as they feel it completely goes against the principles of a National Health Service.

The Forum argued that the PCT had been reluctant to act and should have made more effort to resolve the situation.

But in a recent letter the PCT informed the Forum that it has now written to all 62 surgeries in the borough warning that the it does not approve of them using these premium rate numbers.

The 13 surgeries currently using 0844 numbers have also been informed by Rob Lee, associate director of Primary Care in Enfield, that the Department of Health is currently acquiring evidence to decide if the use of 0844 numbers should be banned altogether.

Long-serving Forum chairman Monty Meth said that he was delighted by the letter.

He said: "Surgeries should not be allowed to boost their income by taking a cut from the cost of each incoming 0844 call, particularly from vulnerable, elderly and disabled people on low incomes."

0844 calls can cost 4.2p a minute on a BT line and up to as much as 40p a minute when using a mobile phone.

There have even been cases where patients have paid over £3 to contact their own GP and Mr Meth is hopeful that such practices will soon be banned.

The news was announced at a Forum reception at the Civic Centre on Tuesday night and came on the same night that it was announced that target member numbers had been achieved for 2008.

l If you are interested in finding out more about the Enfield Over-50s Forum call 020 8447 8841, email or write to the secretary at Enfield Borough Over-50s Forum, Salisbury House, Bury Street West, London, N9 9LA.