Patients will be able to choose which GP practice to register with, regardless of whether or not it is closest to their home, under a pilot scheme.

Commuters are expected to benefit from the plan, which will enable them to choose a doctors' surgery near their workplace, regardless of practice boundaries. People in parts of London, Manchester and Nottingham will be the first to take part.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "This is just the beginning of a range of measures we hope to introduce to make the NHS truly patient focused and will allow us to better understand their needs.

"Many patients are happy with their local GP practice, but a significant minority have problems registering with a practice of their choice.

"This pilot will mean patients taking part can access the high quality care they deserve in a place and at a time that suits them.

"That's why I believe patients should have the freedom to choose a GP practice that suits their lives, and not be restricted by geographical boundaries."

The year-long pilot scheme will begin in April in Westminster, City & Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Manchester, Salford and Nottingham City primary care trusts. GP practices will join up on a voluntary basis.

The move will also allow patients to remain with an existing practice after moving house, and means parents can choose to register at a GP surgery near their children's school.

Ruth O'Hare, a GP in Westminster, said: "This initiative will mean that commuters working in the heart of London will in future have far greater flexibility around their choice of GP, enabling some to choose to see a GP closer to where they work.

"I welcome this exciting initiative, which the Department of Health is resourcing, as it offers patients greater access to NHS care at a time and place that is convenient to them."