The government has hit its target to get over 50 per cent of GP surgeries offering extending hours to patients.
Figures published by the Department of Health show that in the last six month there has been a 40 per cent rise across the country in the number of practices offering a minimum of three hours extra opening in the early morning, evening and weekend.
Findings also highlighted inconsistencies across England in the provision of extended opening hours - although the Department of Health subsequently admitted that regional information may have been inaccurate.
Health minister Ben Bradshaw said that he was confident that all strategic health authorities would have 50 per cent of practices offering extended hours by December 2008-the Department of Health's official deadline.
'It tends to be a virtuous circle in that patients vote with their feet and GP practices have to increase their opening times to attract patients…there will also be the embarrassment factor for primary care trusts to offer extended hours to their patients if the neighbouring PCT is offering it,' he said.