WORCESTER MP Mike Foster is lobbying Government health chiefs to put a stop to premium rate calls to doctors.

Mr Foster has written to the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, asking him to ban outright expensive 0844 telephone lines to GPs.

The numbers are used by 11 GP surgeries across Worcestershire, including St John's House Surgery in Worcester, Ombersley Medical Centre in Ombersley, Grey Gable Surgery in Inkberrow and Pershore Medical Centre in Pershore.

Some 0844 numbers can cost 40p a minute from a mobile and up to 4p a minute more than ordinary landline numbers.

Watchdog Ofcom is against the use of numbers and Paul Bates, chief executive of the Primary Care Trust, has already condemned their use but said the PCT had no power to ban them.

Surgeries using the numbers are now subject to a PCT investigation which aims to discourage practices from adopting the numbers and to drop them if they already use them.

Mr Foster is now taking the fight to the top to get ministers to back a blanket ban on all such phone lines within the NHS.

Mr Foster said:"There is real unease about GP practices earning money from patients in this way. GPs earn their money from the delivery of services to patients."

He hopes to get a reply to his letter within four weeks.

Mr Foster added: "I want to see him state that the NHS continues to be free at the point of use, and that includes banning premium rate or revenue sharing phone calls to your GP. The local PCT have reacted quickly and well, but it is clear there is a national perspective to this as well. We need to stop the use of such revenue sharing phone calls across the NHS wherever it is taking place."

Mr Foster also wants practices to declare how much cash they get from the calls.

The Department of Health banned 087, 090 and 901 numbers but 0844 numbers were considered local rate and were not banned.