Return to practice for healthcare professionals

Information and resources on return to practice for healthcare professionals, practising psychologists and healthcare scientists.

13 May 2022

This page outlines how employers can support nurses, midwives, health visitors and Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register colleagues including allied health professionals (AHPs), practising psychologists and healthcare scientists return to practice in the NHS.


Returning healthcare professionals play a key role in ensuring high-quality patient care and are vital to the retention of skills and experience, ensuring well-trained healthcare staff remain in the NHS. Healthcare professionals may choose to leave their profession for many different reasons, however, they can be supported back into the NHS workforce if they choose to return.

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) defines a returnee to practice as an individual who returns after being out of practice for more than two years. 

National return to practice (RtP) programmes for nurses, midwives, health visitors and HCPC professionals are designed to support NHS staff to return to practice by offering the opportunity to update skills and knowledge in their chosen profession and within their scope of practice. This is done through dedicated courses using classroom and placement-based learning in nursing, health visiting and midwifery. 

The courses are funded by Health Education England (HEE) and returners also receive a stipend to support their return to practice. The HEE RtP programme for HCPC registrants supports returnees on their self-directed return to the register whichever route they choose, be it private study, formal study or supervised practice providing academic, pastoral, and financial support.

Access the HEE return to practice for healthcare professionals webpage for more information.

We are the NHS campaign – Once a nurse, always a nurse  

The We are the NHS national recruitment campaign is now in its fourth consecutive year. The campaign aims to increase positive perceptions of, and pride in, working for the NHS across a diverse range of roles.

The Once a nurse, always a nurse campaign is the RtP strand of the wider We are the NHS campaign and aims to increase the number of nurses and midwives returning to practice by: 

  • inspiring them to return to practice through real stories of those who have done
  • making them aware of the opportunities and support available
  • nurturing and encouraging nurses on their journey back into practice and to take action to re-join the profession by applying for an RtP course, taking the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Test of Competence or being readmitted to the register.

Useful resources 

HEE and NHS England and NHS Improvement host a range of pages explaining the readmission requirements for different healthcare roles and how to apply.

The HCPC website provides information about the process of returning to practice after a break of more than two years.

The NHS England and NHS Improvement website provides more information on the return to nursing practice programme. The page also hosts information on course requirements and locations as well as alternative routes back into the NHS. 

Nurses and midwives who are looking to return to practice can undertake a test of competence instead of doing a return to practice course. This is an alternative route back on to the NMC register and does not replace return to practice courses which are still available. More information on the test of competence including information on how to apply and preparation materials are available on the NMC website.

Toolkits for employers

Access the Return to practice campaign toolkit and the Once a nurse, always a nurse campaign toolkit, which contain resources such as customisable posters and leaflets and social media templates, to help organisations recruit more nurses and midwives back into practice.

Public Health England has also published a campaign resources section for NHS recruitment, which includes recruitment materials available for download, to support your organisation’s return to practice activities.