Fifteen million people cannot get an appointment with a GP when they need one, a health watchdog has said.

The Healthcare Commission found 10 million people couldn't book an appointment more than three days in advance while another five million couldn't see a GP within the government target of two days. More than half of those surveyed said they had problems getting through to their surgery on the phone and a quarter had been put off going by inconvenient opening times.

The survey also highlighted large differences in people's ability to get NHS dentistry. In some areas 43 per cent said they didn't visit an NHS dentist, while 80 per cent said they wanted to.

The chairman of the British Dental Association's board, Susie Sanderson, said: "The concern highlighted is that real problems for patients could be being stored up for the future."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Since the survey, the Government has invested £250m improving access and taken action to extend GPs' opening hours."