Asda is a step closer to opening its first out-of-hours GP surgery after entering talks with a Primary Care Trust in the Midlands.

The multiple is looking to rent out consultation rooms attached to its 128 in-store pharmacies to PCTs so any patient can drop in for an emergency appointment with a doctor.

Legislation now allows GP surgeries to opt out of after-hours care, but PCTs have to provide cover between 6.30pm and 9am.

"Quite a few PCTs have approached us," said John Evans, Asda's superintendent pharmacist. "They can use hospitals but space is tight and there's usually limited parking. Or they can use us - we have 150 stores open 24 hours, which are easy to get to and have loads of parking."

Evans said it had been tricky to match PCTs to particular stores at the right time, but was hopeful that the first surgery was on its way.

He also said that there was no reason why Asda could not employ its own GPs and run its own surgeries in the future, just as it does pharmacies.

Asda is also edging closer to its target of having a pharmacy in every one of its 335 stores.

It opened 43 new pharmacies last year and is due to open another 52 this year, taking the total to 180.?