More than 20,000 extra GPs, nurses and other NHS staff are needed if the Prime Minister wants his plan for longer surgery opening hours to work, the head of the Royal College of GPs has warned.
In her first major TV interview since taking up the post, Dr Maureen Baker told Sky News that GPs needed an extra £1bn of taxpayers' money to recruit sufficient staff to keep practices open seven days a week.
Without the extra money, the NHS risks becoming unsustainable as GPs and hospitals struggle to cope with the extra demand from patients over the winter months, she said.
"If we were to move to seven days a week we would need 10,000 more GPs.
"We probably need the same number of practice nurses and a proportionate number of support staff. We don't think seven days a week is realistic."
Dr Baker took over as head of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in November, a month after the Prime Minister declared his intention to get GPs to work more hours.
According to the British Medical Association (BMA), there are just over 40,000 GPs currently working in the UK. The RCGP wants that figure to rise by a quarter. In a dire assessment of the current state of GP practices, Dr Baker said family doctors feel "besieged" as they struggle to deal with the influx of patients, particularly in the winter months.
"It is constant demand with very little let-up," she said. “We know our colleagues are working 11 to 12-hour days, and that is really difficult to do day after day when it is a job you need to be on top form for.
"They are feeling pressurised and besieged and looking for a bit of respite."
She said GPs need more resources, adding: "The consequence (of not having extra resources) will be the winter pressure effect that comes up every year gets longer and longer.
"My fear is the whole of the NHS becomes unsustainable due to the failure to properly invest in general practice."