The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has called for 5,000 GPs to be trained each year in order to meet current workforce targets and safeguard patient care.

According to the College, there are 3,500 placements for GP training per year; while more junior doctors have chosen to specialise in general practice than ever before, these numbers must increase to at least 5,000 a year as soon as possible, with appropriate funding, it stressed.

The push comes as Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chair, wrote to chief secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak urging him to use the Spending Review to boost the budget for education and training of GPs and other healthcare professionals by at least 3.6% – amounting to an immediate increase of £160 million.

The latest figures from NHS Digital, published last week, also showed that the number of fully qualified, full-time equivalent GPs fell by 576 in the year from June 2018 to June 2019.

“The Interim People Plan set out laudable aspirations on the development of the NHS workforce, but we are deeply concerned that current levels of funding are not sufficient to deliver this,” Professor Stokes-Lampard wrote.

She also called on Mr Sunak to address ‘woefully insufficient’ funds allocated to encourage existing GPs to remain in the workforce, writing:

“It is crucial that more is done to retain the hardworking GPs we currently have. There has been some success with locally funded GP retention schemes, but the £13 million currently allocated is woefully insufficient. Expanding the local funding for GP retainer schemes by an additional £72 million could have a significant effect in preventing much needed experienced GPs leaving general practice.”

Stokes-Lampard went on to say: “We desperately need thousands more GPs but despite great and successful efforts to boost recruitment, more family doctors are leaving the profession that entering it.

“We need to think big, and based on current workforce trends, the College estimates that we need to start training at least 5,000 GPs every year to meet the Government’s overall target to expand the GP workforce by 5000 full time GPs, over the next few years. We also need to tackle unfair underfunding of undergraduate teaching, and discrepancies around how undergraduate placements in general practice are funded compared to in secondary care.”

Money for Health Education England’s education and training budget is not included in the £20.5 billion extra a year promised in the NHS Long Term Plan.