The draft NHS pay and workforce strategy reveals that the Department of Health's current policies will create a shortage of 1,200 family doctor whole-time equivalent posts (WTE) in four years' time.

Its workforce projections suggest supply and demand are currently evenly matched, nationally, with a GP workforce comprising the equivalent of 30,100 WTE posts.

While the Department of Health projects that by 2010-11, 32,000 WTE GPs will be required, there will only be 30,800 WTEs in post, equating to a shortfall of 1,200.

The document suggests that a recent reduction in the recruitment and training of GP registrars 'has lowered projected supply, which is not projected to grow'.

It continues: 'This suggests that, all other things being equal, current policies will continue to lead to GP shortages both in the medium and the longer run, reinforcing the need for an expansion in GP training and the adoption of measures to ensure that more medical students see that as their career.'

The document says that the Department of Health will need to develop a 'clear strategic direction for workforce development' in order for NHS targets to be delivered over the comprehensive spending review period alongside the delivery of its 'vision for patient services' set out in the DoH white paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say.

A key element of this strategy will be 'to expand GP training and work with all partners to encourage more doctors to go down that route, rather than into specialist training', it says, given the surplus of specialist doctors projected.