Britain called, but couldn't find anyone in

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The Independent Online

Britain is no closer to a 24-hour society than it was 10 years ago because most businesses and services still adhere to opening and delivery hours that are inconvenient for the majority of working people, according to new research.

Britain is no closer to a 24-hour society than it was 10 years ago because most businesses and services still adhere to opening and delivery hours that are inconvenient for the majority of working people, according to new research.

British workers waste two days a year waiting at home for deliveries or repair workers, with a loss of 32 million working days, or £2.6bn in earnings.

The nationwide survey of 1,000 adults, conducted by NOP, confirms that the much-hyped "open-all-hours" Britain has yet to arrive and many working families and businesses are paying the price both financially and in health terms. Forty-three per cent of full-time workers resent having to take time off work to see their doctor, while more than one-third find it impossible to get to a chemist to have their prescription filled.

"Time is incredibly precious, especially for working families, so to waste valuable annual leave hanging around for repairmen or attending a dental appointment is very frustrating," said Bridget Walsh, the group marketing manager of Abbey National, who commissioned the research. "Sixty-six per cent of people in the UK claim they are desperately short of time and are demanding improved service from all kinds of businesses."

More than one-quarter of working parents said they would like to see more flexibility in the standard school day.

Craig Watson, a 38-year old tradesman, lives in Croydon, south London, with his wife, Veronique and their two childrenLouie, 3, and Maia, 6. The children attend different schools, which have different start times.

"Even half an hour of pre-school or after-school provision would take the pressure off us," he said.

"I would like to see a 24-hour, 7-day society so that we can have less stress and a bit more control over our lives."

Many families also said that financial products such as pensions and mortgages were failing to fit in with their lifestyle.

More than half of those surveyed, 57 per cent, said they would prefer a flexible pension and 55 per cent a more flexible mortgage that allows them to vary payments to suit their income or circumstances.

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