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The Department of Health has bowed to public pressure and will push for a ban on charging excessive rates for phone calls to GP's surgeries or local hospitals.

The consultation received almost 2,000 public responses and over 1,000 from NHS staff and they were overwhelmingly in support of capping call charges. As a result the DoH will change GP contracts to include a ban on charging more than calls to a normal landline.

The BMA welcomed the move. The doctors organisation said it was pleased the government: "has not gone for a complete ban on the use of these numbers. 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."

The BMA also called on telecoms providers to include 084 numbers in their bundled call packages.

Many hospitals and surgeries use automated phone systems, which depend on 084 numbers, and many pay the bills with revenue sharing deals with the systems' providers.

The DoH statement is here, and the BMA's here. ®

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