By Helen Crump
The RCGP is set to join the GPC in a two-pronged attack to try to force the Government to pull money back into GP recruitment and training.
Senior figures are warning that without an urgent injection of cash, the transfer of work to primary care will be doomed to fail as the workforce crisis worsens.
A leaked Department of Health report predicted a shortfall of 1,200 GPs by 2011 even without factoring in cuts to training schemes, loss of central funding for the GP returners' scheme and loss of cash for new recruits under the flexible careers scheme.
Professor Steve Field, chair of the college's professional development board, warned that 'without these schemes you can't have the transfer of care from the secondary to the primary sector'.
Professor Field, head of workforce and regional postgraduate dean at the West Midlands Workforce Deanery, said: 'Given that they have decided to transfer all funds to the strategic health authorities, we should now have a two-pronged attack.
'I would suggest the line of attack should be, first, nationally and, second, locally with the college particularly taking a lead to ensure the smorgasbord of things we need in the workforce are there in the SHA plans.'
Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, has written to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt demanding a meeting to discuss how new life can be breathed into training.
He told the Health Secretary that this, along with further recruitment and retention measures, were essential if a full-blown workforce crisis was to be avoided.
Dr Meldrum said: 'The figures are extremely difficult to estimate because there are so many variables. But we have always felt the UK was significantly underdoctored in GP terms.'
He insisted it was essential more GPs were trained if primary care was to take on an increased role.
Professor Field said the college must work at a local level to ensure funding for recruitment and retention was present in all SHA development plans for the next year.
His own deanery recently staved off redundancies among GP educators – fighting against a trend that saw jobs lost in London and Merseyside.