The NHS Choices website misled users by failing to state the costs of higher-rate 0844 numbers, the advertising watchdog has ruled.

The Advertising Standards Authority made the ruling following a complaint that did not give any information about the cost of the numbers, listed under the contact information for local health services.

NHS Choices told the ASA that it was aware of the issue and “actively considering options for achieving a sustainable solution”.

Upholding the complaint, the ASA noted that calls to 0844 numbers were charged at a higher rate than standard calls on BT’s most popular call plan, BT Unlimited Weekend, and that the exact cost varied depending on the numbers that followed the first four digits.

The ASA said: “We considered that the costs of calling the 0844 numbers should have been made clear on the website. Because these costs were not clearly stated, we concluded that the website was misleading.”

It ruled that the website must be amended and added: “We told NHS Choices to include clear pricing information for the 0844 numbers.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We have been absolutely clear - patients should not be charged more to contact their GP than they would to call a standard landline number. It is the responsibility of GP practices and the local NHS to make sure this is the case.

“We understand that NHS Choices are changing their website to make information on call charges clearer. NHS England are also actively researching the extent of use of 084 numbers and will take action when this work is done.”