Health secretary Alan Johnson has attacked the 'disgraceful attitude' of primary care trusts that quibble over the terms of his department's flagship policy to extend access to GPs in under-doctored areas.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate, Mr Johnson said primary care trusts should take responsibility for providing more GPs as part of the equitable access to primary care programme.

His comments came after Morecambe and Lunesdale MP Geraldine Smith (Lab) challenged him over the stringency of the rules of the scheme during the debate.

Ms Smith said her local PCT, North Lancashire, had wanted to "do it another way" and asked: "Why is there not the flexibility to allow existing GP practices to expand to meet the need, rather than having to create a new practice, which could have the effect of destabilising existing GP services?"

Mr Johnson replied: "My honourable friend has raised this point with me, and a letter about the disgraceful attitude of the PCT is winging its way towards her.

"Although there may be numerous PCTs which are trying to duck this issue by blaming the government, they are wrong."

Ms Smith later told HSJ: "[The scheme] is too inflexible in under-doctored areas."

She said health managers should challenge policies where they thought there were "better ways of doing things".

However, North Lancashire PCT chief executive Ian Cumming said the organisation was "very comfortable" with the rules of the scheme.