A HOLMFIRTH doctors' surgery with a national rate phone line will be forced to change to a low-cost system.

The move follows an announcement by the Government to stop patients being ripped-off.

Expensive telephone numbers for NHS services will be banned from April under new proposals outlined by Health Minister John Hutton.

The move will stop all NHS organisations from setting up new premium and national rate telephone numbers for patients contacting local services.

Those already in place, including the 0870 number to call Dr Jennison and Partners at Elmwood Health Centre, must be changed by the spring to offer patients a guaranteed low call rate.

Mr Hutton said: "Sick people and their families should not be asked to pay over the odds to contact local NHS services.

"The use of premium and national rate telephone numbers is an unfair additional cost for many NHS patients. That is why we are taking this action."

The ban will also apply to NHS dentists, opticians and GP out-of-hours service providers

It will force 290 practices nationwide to swap national rate numbers - charging up to 7.5 pence a minute and beginning with 087 or 09 - to low call rates starting with 0845 or 0844.

Today a spokesman for Dr Jennison and Partners was unable to confirm when their phone system would be changing.

She said: "Dr Jennison and Partners welcomes the news on behalf of patients.

"We are delighted the Department of Health and phone suppliers have finally come to an agreement.

"This will enable patients to retain the proven benefits of the new technology at a reduced cost."