NICOLA Sturgeon will today announce an extra 100 training places for GPs and a new drive to persuade family doctors to return to work after career breaks.

The First Minister, delivering the inaugural Health and Social Care Alliance lecture in Edinburgh, will say that training places will be boosted despite the NHS struggling to fill the slots it has.

It comes with many surgeries already finding it difficult to fill vacancies and after repeated warnings from GPs that Scotland faces a general practice crisis due to unmanageable workloads, insufficient funding, soaring patient numbers and fewer medical students wanting to do the job.

Ms Sturgeon will announce that training places will increase from 300 to 400 from next year, as part of a move towards a "sustainable future" for general practice. This year, just 240 of the places, which doctors enter after completing university degrees and two years of foundation training, were filled.

She is expected to say: "We know that we’ll need more students in the future. That’s partly to meet a growing demand for services, and partly because of changing working patterns. People who graduate are increasingly likely to become part-time GPs rather than full-time ones.

"We’re already doing more to encourage people to choose GP training – for example by increasing medical students’ exposure to primary care when they are undergraduates. And I can confirm today a further important step. We are increasing the number of training places for GPs by 33 per cent – from 300 to 400.

"That change will take place next year, meaning that from 2019 onwards, we will see an additional 100 trained GPs each year. It’s a major commitment towards ensuring that we have the skilled practitioners patients need, working in integrated services, delivering our vision for the health service of the future."

While the number of individual GPs has increased under the SNP, the fact that more are choosing to work part time means the whole time equivalent number has barely changed as appointment numbers have soared by 20 per cent.

Ms Sturgeon will announce the extension of a scheme to attract former GPs back to work, with 250 under the age of 50 leaving the profession in the past five years.

She will add: "After all, training a GP costs approximately £500,000. It makes overwhelming sense to encourage people who have already been trained, and already have experience, back into practice.

"They can make a big difference – even by working on a part time basis, or providing out of hours cover. It’s the quickest and most cost –effective way of increasing GP numbers, and it’s beneficial for general practices and for patients."

The announcements follow the promise of a £60 million investment in primary care earlier this year and a move to scrap a payment system which doctors complained was overly bureaucratic.

Dr Miles Mack, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (Scotland), welcomed the announcements. He said: "We are very pleased to see such a clear statement of intent coming from the First Minister. These are excellent initiatives in line with our recommendations.

"The First Minister is absolutely correct that the quickest and most cost-effective means of easing the situation is to have those who have left the profession, or who are practicing elsewhere, return. We eagerly await the detail of that scheme. Increasing trainee places to 400 per year will help a great deal in the longer term.

"We cannot relax, however. It is known that last year not all of the spaces available for training were taken up and we must ask what encouragements are to be offered to those leaving their medical foundation training to choose general practice."