Family doctors need a "closer personal relationship" with their patients as part of efforts to ease the crisis in hospital accident and emergency units, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
Mr Hunt insisted he was not blaming GPs for the problem but said they must be made responsible for the out-of-hours service provided to patients on their list.
The Health Secretary claimed the service "deteriorated" when the GP contract was changed in 2004, with the public losing confidence and turning to A&E departments.
Mr Hunt told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "I would never blame GPs because I think they work extremely hard. I've been in GP surgeries and they have very, very long days.
"But I do think that contract is one of the contributing causes, yes, because I think what happened was when you removed the responsibility for services at the evenings and weekends from GPs, the service deteriorated and there's a great loss of public confidence. If you need to speak to a GP out of hours, you'll generally be speaking to someone who's a long way away from you who doesn't know you, can't see your medical notes."
While he was not calling for family doctors to personally be on call all night, he added: "I think we need to go back to GPs having responsibility for making sure that for the people on their list, there is a good service available. And I think the reforms we've had in the health service help to make that happen, but I think there's lots more we need to do."
Mr Hunt said having "better alternatives in primary care, a closer personal relationship between people and their GPs - something that many people think was lost by those contract changes - that's going to be at the heart of the solution".
The Health Secretary admitted there had been "teething problems" with the 111 phone service, which may have resulted in more people attending A&E, but the issues ran deeper that that.
He said: "I think we did have some teething problems with the new 111 service, which we're now resolving. But I think the problem runs much deeper than that and if you talk to the doctors in A&E departments, as I've been doing a lot in the last few months, there are a number of things.
"One of them is that it's harder now for hospitals to hit their targets because under the last government we, I'm afraid, had a culture of hitting targets at any cost, and that led to the appalling tragedy at Mid Staffs Hospital. And now hospitals rightly are saying that these targets matter, they do need to see people within four hours at A&E, but they're not going to do so in a way that compromises patient safety."