Premium rate telephone numbers will be banned for all lines used by patients and the public to contact the NHS, Health Minister Mike O’Brien has announced.

A public consultation was carried out and almost 3,000 members of the public responded, demonstrating the level of feeling on the subject.

“For people on low incomes, and for those who need to contact their local doctor or hospital regularly, these costs can soon build up. We want to reassure the public that when they contact their local GP or hospital, the cost of their call will be no more expensive than if they had dialled a normal landline number,” said Health Minister Mike O’Brien.

The British Medical Association’s GP Committee and the Department of Health will co-operate over the next few months to bring in the legislative changes to the GP contracts.

Deputy Chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee Dr Richard Vautrey said: “Patients who call their surgery because they’re ill shouldn’t be penalised because they have to call an 084 number, so we’re pleased that the phone companies who supply these lines to practices have agreed to ensure that their tariffs are in line with local charges.”