England is in danger of losing 16,000 GPs by 2021 because of the "black hole" in NHS funding, the Royal College of General Practitioners is warning.
Funding deficiencies have already led to a cull of more 8,300 family doctors in the country, but this is expected to jump a further 7,500 over the next eight years as the ring-fenced budget fails to keep up with growing service demand, it said.
The warning comes on the back of an NHS England report last week which forecast a potential shortfall in NHS funding by 2021 of a whopping £30 billion, in addition to the £20 billion efficiency savings being made.
It has been widely reported recently that A&E services are in crisis, and if the RCGP's arguments are anything to go by it seems general practice could be next in line, dragged under by a deficit of £2.7 billion.
As the College notes, while GPs conduct 90% of the NHS contacts each year, this arm of the health service receives just 9% of NHS funding, a figure which has been steadily falling.
Add to this burgeoning demand on GP services, with more than half of GPs (55%) already carrying out 40-60 patient consultations a day, and you get a situation in which just half of family doctors feel they can guarantee safe care for their patients (according to a recent RCGP poll).
According to RCGP chair Clare Gerada, if general practice starts to fall apart the impact will be felt across the rest of the health service, which will lead to longer waits in A&E and a growing list of last minute cancellations of elective surgery.
"As a first step, ministers must move to protect patient care by increasing the funding for general practice to 10% of the NHS budget immediately, and they should work with us to help boost the number of medical graduates going into general practice," she said.