Trusts are still dismissing employees for making premium-rate telephone calls at work. In this day and age, it is inconceivable that any trust has a telephone system which does not prevent premium-rate calls.

Unfortunately, telephone abuse is a major problem in the NHS, but to permit access to premium-rate numbers is a recipe for disaster. The National Audit Office criticised the NHS in 1991 for poorly managing telephone services. Eight years later the problem is still apparent. Many trusts are their own worst enemies in not allocating resources to managing telecommunications.

Various dialling codes are used for premium-rate numbers, with cost ranging from 50p to£5 a minute. This will improve after April 2000 when all premium- rate calls will be on a single code. Until then, I urge the NHS to stop wasting taxpayers' money (mine included) on easily preventable telephone abuse.

Derek Hodgson

Deputy director of IT


Hammersmith Hospitals trust