The chairman of the British Medical Association has told a government minister that more money and staff will be needed to improve GP access.

Dr Hamish Meldrum spoke out after Ben Bradshaw, the health minister with responsibility for primary care, said more GPs were needed in under-doctored areas and had to open longer.

Mr Bradshaw told a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference: 'I think there are problems with the existing contract and I think there is a feeling among the public that a lot of money has gone in but not much has been returned.'

But Dr Meldrum said: 'It is not a question of you paying me as a GP more, this is a question of providing adequate resources so that I can have a full range of staff that I need to provide a comprehensive service.'

However, he said he would not oppose the use of the independent sector in primary care as backed by Mr Bradshaw.

Dr Meldrum said the BMA was prepared to accommodate the government's drive for greater access. 'We should never be complacent, we should never take that trust [placed in GPs] for granted and I think, yes, probably that with all the negative publicity there has been some damage and I am very anxious to try and address that.'

His comments at the conference came ahead of the BMA's official response to junior health minister Lord Darzi's report Healthcare for London: a framework for action, which set out proposals for the capital.

The BMA warned that polyclinics, proposed by Lord Darzi, could result in 'damaging fragmentation' of the NHS.

Although the BMA accepts the need for change, Mr Meldrum said the plans for 100-150 polyclinics staffed by 50-60 GPs could mean the end of local practices. 'Our main concern, and one certainly seen in larger companies running pharmacies, is the loss of continuity due to turnover of staff,' he said. 'The majority of people like local practices they can relate to; these new superficial buildings with all their glitter could see the loss of the UK practice.'

The BMA response says there are already community hospitals providing intermediate care services; GPs with special interests who are able to treat more patients in their surgeries; and many consultant-led community health services based in premises outside of hospital.

Dr Meldrum added that there were worries about duplication of service, particularly in diagnostics, and cost savings. 'We have a lot of concerns about the cost of polyclinics and if it would actually save money.'