Patient safety at GP surgeries could be ‘at risk’ unless a “chronic shortage” of doctors is turned around, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners.
It says that unless drastic action is taken to ensure there are enough doctors in the NHS, thousands of patients could be forced to travel miles to their nearest GP practice or be left stranded with no family doctor at all.
The RCGP says with 75% of doctors across 540 general practices over the age of 55 and nearing retirement, there could be a shortfall of 10,000 doctors by 2020.
The College’s chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “It is imperative that we recruit huge numbers of medical students and foundation doctors into general practice in order to keep the NHS on its feet.
“If we fail, there will be too few GPs to go round, practices will close, and patient safety in general practice will clearly be at risk.”
She added: “General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS, with 90% of patient contacts in the health service being conducted by family doctors and their teams.
A series of short films have been produced designed to lure medical students into the world of general practice by countering the idea that GPs only deal with coughs and colds.
“Our videos explode this dangerous myth by showing that family doctors are expert medical generalists who have to manage and understand chronic long-term conditions and deliver the continuing care that our most complex of patients need,” said Dr Baker.
NHS England announced a plan in April to increase resources going into general practice. It also pledged to boost investment in general practice by £2.4bn a year by 2020.