The government’s promise to provide 2000 general practitioners (GPs) by 2004 is being threatened by the reluctance of young doctors to enter this sector of the profession.
Only 110 extra family doctors were recruited last year, a fraction of the number required.
At present, 55 per cent of doctors are GPs, according to a British Medical Association (BMA) survey.
Details of the drop in recruitment into general practice are contained in the annual report of a ten-year study of career choices and work patterns of 550 medical graduates.
The study also showed that two thirds of doctors training to be GPs were women and 74 per cent of these said that they intended to work part-time.
More than 90 per cent of doctors responded to the survey – with an average age of 28.
The government said in the NHS Plan, published last year, that there would be 2,000 more GPs and 450 more in training by 2004. By the end of the decade, government plans aim for a total of 3,000 additional doctors.
But the BMA recommends an extra 10,000 GPs are needed to meet care quality targets.
The BMA committee chairman, Dr John Chisholm, said: “Britain is seriously under-doctored. The medical profession has long realised, and the government is at last belatedly realising, that we desperately need many more GPs.”