A 14-week public consultation has been launched on more expensive phone numbers being used by NHS organisations.

Numbers beginning with 084 allow service providers to generate revenue from those making the calls and are increasingly being used by NHS trusts, GP practices and other services including NHS Direct. They allow those making a call to wait in a queue until a line becomes free, but are more expensive.

Premium ban
The Department of Health banned the use of premium and national charge rate phone numbers in 2005. 084 numbers were not included in the ban because at the time they were not considered premium rate, but it has since emerged they cost more than local calls.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw said: “For people on low incomes who need to contact their local doctor or hospital regularly, those costs can soon mount up.

“We know some people value the additional service 084 numbers can offer but others object to being charged more. We receive regular complaints about this.”