More people will live in the UK than either France or Germany within the next 40 years, with severe implications for the health service, according to figures.
The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) said Britain's population is set to hit 77 million by 2050, a rise of almost from its current total of 62.2 million.
If the predictions come true, the UK would be home to more people than France, which has an expected population of 70 million in 2050, and Germany at 71.5 million.
Western Europe should stay fairly constant over the coming decades – the PRB report suggested a rise from 189 million today to 190 million in 2050 – while the population of Europe as a whole is expected to drop from 739 million to 720 million.
Yet the global population will grow by nearly a third in the same period, swelling from 6.89 billion to 9.49 billion, and India will take China's title as the world's most populated country, with 1.75 billion people.
Last month, the Office for National Statistics figures showed the UK's population in 2008/09 had grown 0.06% from the year before. It also revealed there were 123,000 more babies born in 2008/09 than seven years earlier.
Copyright © Press Association 2010
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"I cannot think that this surprises anyone, problems for general practice – that depends. It is time we stopped just granting every whim. We need to take a robust attitude to what can and cannot be offered on the NHS. It is time to get real with the public to consider things like taking paracetamol off script it is so cheap to buy surely anyone who takes any responsiblity for their own or their family's health could reasonably be expected to have some in the home. Just a small example which comes to mind, I am sure there are plenty other ideas out there at the 'coalface' but the cynic in me tells me the ideas of people providing the service will not be listened to" – Name and address withheld