Health authorities could have to pay thousands of pounds in back pay for GP telephone advice, following a landmark ruling by the NHS appeals authority.

It has supported GP Dr Ashley Royston, who brought a case on behalf of Cornish-of-hours co-operative KernowDoc for advice given before the government changed the rules relating to fees for telephone advice in February.

The National Association of GP Co-operatives saw the KernowDoc bid as a 'test case.' Co-operatives in other popular holiday areas and London are now expected to put in similar claims.

Murray Cochrane, director of development at Cornwall and Isles of Scilly health authority, said it would make back payments after advice from the NHS Executive on the value of the fee. The money will be paid from non- cash limited general medical services funding.

KernowDoc chair Gareth Emrys-Jones said the back payments would involve about 2,000 patients and would come to 'many thousands of pounds'.