Patients should not be charged premium phone call rates to make an appointment with their GP, health secretary Andrew Lansley has said.

Mr Lansley said the government had set out its guidelines “very clearly” to ensure GPs did not force patients to use 0844 numbers to book an appointment.

The government is also launching a 111 number, which will enable patients to access a range of services for free, he said.

Mr Lansley’s comments came after Labour former shadow health secretary John Healey said some GPs were flouting the guidelines.

“We have set this out very clearly, GPs should not be using the 0844 numbers for this purpose and charging patients for them,” Mr Lansley said.

“I might say one of the benefits of NHS 111 is that it will be a free service for patients and it will give them the chance to gain access to integrated urgent care wherever they are in the country.”