Councillors have expressed concern about the cost of phone calls to Locala after the health provider admitted it was still failing to answer calls on time.

Locala, which provides a large proportion of local NHS services, admitted it had only answered 40% of calls to its ‘single point of contact’ within its target 90 seconds during the first full week of April.

The provider, which won the £238m Care Closer to Home contract last year, added that 90% of calls were answered within 10 minutes.

But at a meeting of Kirklees Health Scrutiny Committee, Locala officials admitted that one caller was left hanging on the line for up to 28 minutes.

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The social enterprise was last month served with an official ‘notice’ by Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group for failing to answer calls with 90 seconds.

Calls to Locala’s single point of contact via an 0303-number are charged at the national rate.

They cost 12p per minute from a landline – but calls from a mobile can cost between 3p and 45p per minute.

It is feared that those with pay-as-you-go phones, often used by those who cannot afford contracts, will be hit hardest.

Kirklees Council Conservative member Liz Smaje.

Panel chair Clr Liz Smaje asked Locala to find out what its patients were being charged.

Clr Smaje added that patients, who used Locala’s services regularly and often had to call, could be faced with substantial phone bills.

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Locala interim director of operations, Jackie Ramsay, said the provider’s call centre had struggled with sickness absence levels and resignations.

But Ms Ramsay said Locala had ‘put that right’ and aimed to answer 80% of calls within 90 seconds.

She said: “We believe we have a really robust plan to get that right and we are being managed by the CCG to help us do that.

“We believe we have got an offering that is starting to bear fruit.”