The Royal College of GPs is urging parents to get their children vaccinated in response to data highlighting a significant rise in cases in England.

According to Public Health England, the number of lab-confirmed cases of measles leapt from 274 in 2017 to 738 from January to July this year.

Over this time-frame, cases were reported in most areas with London (262), the South-East (154), South-West (109), West Midlands (84) and Yorkshire and Humberside (76) reporting the most.

"This is so disheartening when we consider how close we came to completely eradicating this unpleasant infectious illness and achieving medicine's ultimate goal of confining this awful disease to the history books,” said RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.

A recent article in the British Journal of General Practice concludes that despite progress in vaccine coverage in recent years the condition - which is highly infectious and potentially deadly in the most severe cases - remains a threat to the UK population, largely because of immunity gaps in older cohorts.

“In the early 2000s there was a fall in MMR vaccination coverage in children and as a consequence, we are now seeing measles cases in young adults. Measles can be more serious in adults with a higher likelihood of hospitalisation and complications arising,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE.

"Unfortunately, we had major setbacks in the 1990s when false claims about the MMR vaccine caused panic which led to a significant drop in the numbers of parents allowing their children to be immunised, and the latest figures would appear to indicate that we are still feeling the impact,” adds Prof Stokes-Lampard.

"We ask all parents to do the right thing, including when returning from abroad, and have their children vaccinated according to the latest vaccination guidelines in the best interests of their own health and so that we stand the best chance of permanently eradicating measles in the future."