MPs quizzed Health Education England (HEE) chief executive Professor Ian Cumming on Tuesday over how the government's plan for 5,000 extra GPs would be achieved.
Professor Cumming told the health select committee that a fifth of the target figure - 1,000 GPs - would be met through retention and returners.
Giving evidence to the committee’s inquiry into primary care Professor Cumming said: ‘The 5,000 figure is broken down into 4,000 additional GPs that HEE have a responsibility for producing, and work on getting people to come back to GP practice or work on persuading people to not leave ... getting people to perhaps work an extra couple of years in a different role - that will account for 1,000.’
‘So, we'll have 1,000 through return to practice and better retention and 4,000 through new trainees that HEE are putting in the system,' said Professor Cumming.
Asked by GP Dr James Davies MP (Con, Vale of Clwyd) why HEE refered to 'doctors in general practice' rather than GPs, Professor Cumming admited the figure also included registrars working in practices.
When the plan was first announced in October 2014 health secretary Jeremy Hunt said a Conservative government would ‘train and retain’ an extra 5,000 GPs.
During the election campaign Mr Hunt said the plan meant the NHS would be ‘recruiting at least 5,000 more GPs in the next parliament’. The health secretary was accused of ‘evasiveness’ by Labour following the election when he appeared to row back from the 5,000 target.