An unacceptable variation exists between doctors’ out of hours services around the country, Mike O’Brien has admitted.

The health minister said he had a report on his desk highlighting the problem and was planning to publish proposals for improvements.

Mr O’Brien was responding to a report claiming doctors are agreeing to just one in 50 requests for out of hours home visits in some parts of the country.

Even in the best areas, only one in four people calling for a GP at night or at weekends receives a visit, according to a study reported in the Daily Mail.

The report, by the Primary Care Foundation, compares the quality of health services in England’s primary care trusts.

It says that in some areas there is only one GP covering more than 300,000 people at night.

It also claims the number of patients receiving home visits varies from 25 per cent in one PCT to 2 per cent in another, while the number given only a telephone diagnosis varies between 20 per cent and 70 per cent.

Mr O’Brien, on GMTV, denied the system was a shambles.

He said: “That’s not what a recent report which I commissioned last year will say.

“It will say actually it’s better than it was in 2004, but that there is an unacceptable level of variation between the primary care trusts, who are the funders of the out of hours services.”

He added that minimum government standards were needed and that local GPs should become more involved to help meet patients’ needs.