Ready to return to practice? Natasha Pisarski and Natalie Matchett of  Health Education England take us through the process and support available through the Return to practice programme in England. While Natasha and Natalie represent Return to Practice in England, there is much here that will be of interest across the UK.

Perhaps you or someone you know is interested in getting back to the profession they love? If so, this article explains how. If you’re an employer then read on to learn of the many benefits of supporting someone to return to practice. 

‘Returnees do not need to take exams or retrain – they are qualified in their profession, is often about regaining confidence and not competence - RTP is about gaining re-registration to use their protected title.’

The HEE Return to Practice Programme
The Return to Practice (RTP) programme from HEE supports former HCPC registrants that have left their professions to re-enter and gain their HCPC registration. Since the programme began in 2017, over 600 AHPs have been supported and returned to the HCPC register including 25 paramedics. This is great news: we need to welcome them back and value their contribution.

Returners have told us they want support in finding supervised practice; they want more flexible working; and they want a centralised point of contact within organisations who had the knowledge of the RTP HCPC requirements and HEE RTP Programme (HEE, 2021 Supervised Practice Survey). They note a lack of clarity in how to return to practice and difficulties associated with attaining placements. The National HEE RTP programme, together with collaboration between HEE and COP aims to assist these issues and improve the RTP experience for Paramedics. 

What’s involved?
If you’re registered with the HCPC and have been out of the profession for 0-2 years, then there is no need to do any additional study or work experience. You can apply for relevant jobs straight away.

Paramedics that have been off the register for more than two years will need to complete the return to practice process to update their knowledge and skills.

The HEE RTP programme offers many benefits to returnees including: support to find a supervised practice placement, financial support and peer support through a closed Facebook group. The programme is also about to offer returnees HEE Leadership placements with the support of our AHP Regional leads. 

Return to practice  requirements are flexible and allow professionals to update their knowledge and skills through a self-directed process. It means a returner is able to decide themselves how to complete their period of updating in a way that best suits their personal circumstances, be that through supervised practice, private studies or formal ones. The timescale to complete the return to practice process stands at 24 months (increased from 12 because of the pandemic).

Flexible approach
Organisations need to take a flexible approach to help returners to practice. Some ways to do this include:

Consider what you can do virtually (eg online supervision sessions, training, videos).
Look at what your team can offer (not what it can’t); what are the learning opportunities and what can returnees add to services?
Encourage all team members to contribute to the returners’ support. 
Think outside the box: supervised practice can take place in any area or specialism such as research or leadership placements and posts. 
Team up with local supervisors who also have returnees and together build a community of practice. 
Consider alternative placement models, such as sharing between teams or local organisations, as well as inter-professional, group mentoring or peer learning if you have more than one returner.
Use online and simulated approaches for multi-professional learning to expand placements for returners.
Secure partnership working between higher education and practice to support mentorship for returners
Use different routes to enable a return to practice, ie any paid employment or volunteering roles, including support worker posts. Offer the placement route only via the use of an honorary contract or employment route using fixed term contracts until re-registered. Offer a substantive post if one is available. 

What are the benefits for organisations of supporting return to practice? 

It addresses workforce gaps, including hard to fill positions. Try offering band 2/3/4 positions while supporting people to RTP, and then moving them into band 5/6/7 positions on obtaining HCPC registration.
It taps into a skilled workforce. People leave the HCPC register age 44 with nine years’ experience, on average; 60% leave when they are band 7 or above (HEE/GEO survey, 201). 
If returners are well supported, evidence suggests that they’re highly likely to seek employment with that organisation, thus reducing recruitment and agency costs, and increasing bank capacity. 
It’s a quick and economical way to increase supply. The average cost of returners to an organisation is £1175, and re-registration can take place within 6-12 weeks.

For more information about joining, renewing, and leaving the HCPC Register please visitRegistration | Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) | (

For more information on Return to Practice for Organisations, please download this guide.

The HEE RTP programme team can provide support on all these issues. Please see our website for further information and resources and do get in touch.
Natalie Matchett and Natasha Pisarski National RTP Leads (HCPC), Health Education England
Contact The RTP Programme:
Register your interest with the programme here:

Other support:

Support in Wales 

Support in Scotland
Peter Glover
NHS Education for Scotland
Allied Health Professions Programme