The Royal College of GPs is warning that patient safety could be at risk from a stream of practice closures driven by a "chronic shortage" of family doctors.

If this shortage is not addressed, 594 practices across the UK are at risk of closure by 2020, because at least 75 percent of their GPs are aged fifty five years and over, the College notes.

The recruitment crisis, coupled with an expanding and ageing population, could mean a shortfall of GPs of 9,940 by 2020, it warns, which could mean patients having to travel miles to their nearest practice.

"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," said RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker. "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".

NHS England already has a plan in place to significantly increase resources going into general practice, with a target of expanding the GP workforce by 5,000 additional doctors and 5,000 other members of the team by 2020, supported by the College.

But to further help address recruitment issues in the field, the RCGP has now launched a video and guide designed to attract thousands of additional foundation doctors, medical students and sixth form students into general practice.

"Despite the fact that general practice is critical to the success of the NHS there is a bizarre misconception in certain parts of the medical world that GPs merely treat coughs and colds," Dr Baker noted.

"However, our Think GP video and guide 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."