Health Secretary Alan Johnson has called for more out-of-hours availability by GPs, saying current working hours are an “anomaly”.
Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there is too much of a “nine-to-five” attitude among general practitioners and urged them to work more in the evenings and at weekends.
The government negotiated a contract with GPs in 2004 which led to more than 90% of them opting out of providing out-of-hours care, while also earning an average annual salary in excess of £100,000.
Johnson’s comments follow a recent call from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) for changes to doctors’ hours after an official report showed GPs were working up to seven hours per week less than 15 years ago.
As a result, 10 million people are unable to book a doctor’s appointment more than 48 hours in advance because of inflexible GP hours.
Johnson said: “I think there is a bit of an anomaly that there is half day closing on Wednesdays and Thursdays and you can’t get to see a GP after you leave work. We do need to address that.
“Many GPs practices are addressing that and opening on a Saturday morning. We want to see that more widespread,” he added.