CALLERS could still be paying over the odds to contact NHS services from Dorset, a campaigner has claimed.

A dozen GP practices in the county and the out of hours service run by South Western Ambulance Service Trust are still using numbers beginning with 084.

The government asked primary care trusts five years ago to make sure patients telephoning GP practices did not have to pay more than the cost of a geographical call. It allowed 084 numbers to remain, saying that calls to them should cost no more than a standard call.

But critics say the cost of a call is defined by the telephone company carrying the call, not the recipient. And while some suppliers include 084 numbers in inclusive call packages, others do not.

“The government has failed to realise that the only way to ensure people only pay a normal charge is by prohibiting numbers that might charge more,” said leading campaigner David Hickson.

A spokesperson from NHS Bournemouth and Poole said: “GP surgeries are able to use an 084 number as long as the tariff is equivalent to geographical local rates.

“Within the NHS Bournemouth and Poole area there are nine practices using an 084 number, all of which report to be charging local rates.

“We have requested that a contract variation is signed which commits practices to reviewing call costs to ensure they are in line with guidance so that calls to their 084 number are charged at a local rate for fixed lines.

“We will be expecting responses from all practices by the end of this month.”

A spokesperson for NHS Dorset said: “We can confirm that we have three practices in Dorset which use 084 numbers. These practices comply with the regulations, which means a call to them would cost no more than a call to a geographically equivalent number.”

Ofcom wants public sector organisations to switch to 03 numbers, which have to be charged at the same rate as calling a normal landline.