Speaking exclusively to GP, Mr O'Brien said GPs will eventually come round to the idea of removing practice boundaries to allow patients to visit surgeries closer to where they work. A consultation would be published soon with details of how the scheme will work, he said.
The GPC says removing practice boundaries will complicate home visits and out-of-hours provision, and a poll by GP this week reveals three-quarters of GPs currently oppose the idea.
The health minister acknowledged GPs' concerns, but said lessons could be learned from the legal profession, where partners often have clients living far away.
'It won't be easy but I don't think it is insurmountable,' he said.
Around 10% of patients wish to see a different GP for various reasons, said Mr O'Brien.
‘How do you justify looking a patient in the eye and saying ‘you might want to go and see that GP but I'm not going to let you'?'
Editor's blog: Why is Labour so disconnected with GPs on the NHS?