A funding gap between 2013 and 2021 could lead to a shortfall of 16,000 family doctors in England, the Royal College of General Practitioners has said.

NHS England has reported that there would be a £30bn gap over the next eight years if health services in England continue to deliver care in the way they do.

The RCGP has calculated that general practice will face a deficit of £2.7bn in 2021, which based on the typical costs of employing partner and salaried GPs would lead to a further shortfall of 7,500 GPs across England.

It stated that there is already a shortfall of more than 8,300 family doctors.

Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the RCGP, said: “The fact that in just eight years we could see a shortfall of almost 16,000 GPs is truly shocking.

“General practice is at the heart of the NHS and if it is left to wither, as is the case now, it could sow the seeds of an unprecedented disintegration of the NHS, both in primary care and secondary care.

“Such is the key role that general practice plays that if it starts to fall apart the impact will be felt across the rest of the health service - leading to longer waits in A&E and ever more last-minute cancellations of elective surgery.”

A poll of around 250 GPs conducted for the RCGP last month found that 85 per cent believe general practice is “in crisis”, while half said that GPs could “no longer guarantee safe care to their patients”.

Dr Gerada said: “As a first step, ministers must move to protect patient care by increasing the funding for general practice to 10 per cent of the NHS budget immediately, and they should work with us to help boost the number of medical graduates going into general practice.

“Only by supporting general practice and allowing it to treat more patients in the community can the government protect the NHS from catastrophe - and ensure that the health service can meet the projected health needs of the population.”