Drastic action is needed to support the UK's network of NHS GPs, or patients could be forced to travel miles for healthcare or be left without a doctor.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has said that a growing population, with more older people, will result in a shortfall in the GP workforce.

The RGCP estimates that with 75% of doctors across 540 general practices being over the age of 55 and nearing retirement, the NHS will be short 9,940 GPs by 2020.

The College's chair Dr Maureen Baker said: "It is imperative that we recruit huge numbers of medical students and foundation doctors into general practice in order to keep the NHS on its feet.

"If we fail, there will be too few GPs to go round, practices will close, and patient safety in general practice will clearly be at risk."

"General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS, with 90% of patient contacts in the health service being conducted by family doctors and their teams," she added.

"GP practices are part of the fabric of their local communities, and the relationship that family doctors build with their patients over time remains a key reason why, when properly resourced, it is one of the most satisfying jobs there is.

"A career in general practice offers a great deal of flexibility. It allows you to fit the job around other major commitments, such as having a young family. It gives you the chance to practise in the region of your choice and to decide whether to be wholly a generalist or to develop skills in a specific area as a GP with a special interest."

A series of short films have been produced designed to lure medical students into the world of general practice by countering the idea that GPs only deal with coughs and colds.

One of the "Think GP" films

"Our videos explode this dangerous myth by showing that family doctors are expert medical generalists who have to manage and understand chronic long-term conditions and deliver the continuing care that our most complex of patients need," said Dr Baker.

NHS England announced a plan in April to increase resources going into general practice. It also pledged to boost investment in general practice by £2.4bn a year by 2020.