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Premium-rate NHS phone lines banned

Patients will no longer have to pay over the odds to get in touch with doctors and hospitals as premium-rate phone numbers are to be scrapped for all NHS services.

Some GP practices and hospitals have been using numbers starting 084 - which see patients charged more than the cost of a local call. But after a public consultation saw 3,000 people respond, charging patients extra for such calls will be banned in England.

The changes will be brought in over the next few months. To prevent confusion patients will still dial 084 numbers to get through but now they will only pay for the cost of a local call. There are understood to be about 1,200 GP practices which use the 084 numbers.

Health minister Mike O'Brien said the strength of public opinion was key to banning the more expensive phone numbers.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, said: "Combining the benefits of 084 numbers with an assurance that they won't cost more than a local phone call is the best solution for patients and practices".

Copyright © Press Association 2009


Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Good news for patient consumers with end to overcharging. I am surprised it was allowed to continue in use for so long a period" - V Henry, London

"I think this is a good idea, a lot of patients find it too expensive to ring their own GP surgery which I think is ridiculous, I'm all for it!" - Cheryl Hall, Norton