GPs in England must keep their surgeries open for longer to meet demand from patients, or risk losing funding. That is the warning from Downing Street.
It said many patients were going to under pressure A&E departments, because they could not get appointments.
The government wants to see surgeries open between 08:00 and 20:00, seven days a week, unless they can prove the demand is not there.
The British Medical Association accused ministers of “scapegoating” doctors.
Downing Street said surgeries should do more to ensure they offer appointments in the evening and at weekends.
It said: “Most GPs do a fantastic job, and have their patients” interests firmly at heart.
“However, it is increasingly clear that a large number of surgeries are not providing the access that patients need – and that patients are suffering as a result because they are then forced to go to A&E to seek care.
“It’s also bad for hospitals, who then face additional pressure on their services”.
Figures show more than 4 in 10 hospitals in England declared a major alert in the first week of 2017. The news comes as the hospitals faced unprecedented pressures.
Figures from the National Audit Office show 46% of GP surgeries closed at some point during core hours. 18% of them closed at or before 15:00 on at least one weekday.
Three-quarters of those received extra funding in 2015-16 to provide access outside of core hours, the government said.
The director of acute care for NHS England, Professor Keith Willett, has estimated that 30% of patients attending A&E would be better cared for elsewhere in the system, it added.