Charities and activists have told Labour not to shy away from tackling access to GP services and to ignore jibes about the 'nanny state'.

Asthma UK chief executive Neil Churchill said: "Do we say it is a matter of personal responsibility... or do we do active case management?" It was important the state offered people help - particularly those in deprived areas - as many in need did not ask for help themselves, he continued.

Battling the professionals

Mr Churchill also said being more interventionist about health problems meant being "willing to take on the professionals where necessary". This had been shown in the "battle" over GP opening hours, which had been "important for people with long-term conditions, because many tend to not want to take time off work or take their children out of school" to see a GP.

Neal Lawson, chair of the Labour pressure group Compass, said the NHS should be subject to more democratic control and suggested that local polls could determine whether GPs' licences were renewed.