The Department of Health is to issue trusts and GPs with guidance on reviewing their current contractual arrangements for telephony services.

Health minister Mike O’Brien announced this week that premium rate call charges to the NHS would be banned. The move follows a consultation on the use of 084 numbers, which ran from 16 December 2008 to 31 March.

The DH stated that it “intends to amend legislation and issue supporting guidance” to ensure NHS organisations review current arrangements for telephony services and do not enter into future contracts, or renew or extend an existing contract, where the overall effect is that patients pay more than the equivalent of a local call.

Under the changes, NHS organisations and GPs will still be free to use numbers with an 084 prefix but cannot charge patients a premium rate. The DH said the move would allow a “marketplace to evolve” where 084 numbers competed alongside 01, 02 and 03 numbers.

The DH added that the ban would be enforced through proposed changes to the GP contract and the issuing of directions to trusts. “These changes will be put in place as soon as practicable,” it said.