Prime Minister David Cameron said if the Conservatives win the next general election, his government will provide GP services seven days a week by 2020,
The prime minister has unveiled a further £100m from April 2015 for a fund set up last year to improve flexibility.
Mr Cameron said: “People need to be able to see their GP at a time that suits them and their family. That’s why we will ensure everyone can see a GP seven days a week by 2020. We will also support thousands more GP practices to stay open longer – giving millions of patients better access to their doctor.”
Under a £50m pilot scheme launched at last year’s Conservative conference, surgeries in nine areas of England were able to bid for money to open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week, as well as offering Skype consultations and more telephone consultations.
Practices around the country will now be invited to bid for funds for 2015/16. Extending seven day opening to all areas by 2020 will cost £400m spread over the next five years, the government said.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Cameron said this was not “some fairytale announcement”, saying the pilot scheme had been “a great success”.
He said the move could take pressure off accident and emergency wards, which he said were “not the right place” for “frail, elderly” people.
“Yes, this costs money, but I actually think it will help take the pressure off a key part of the system,” he said.
The British Medical Association has questioned whether extending opening hours is the best use of stretched NHS resources.
Labour has said it would plough an extra £2.5bn into the NHS, if it regains power, to hire an extra 8,000 GPs and to guarantee that everyone will be able to see a GP within 48 hours.