Returning to medicine

Returning to work after maternity leave or after a period of illness (or if you have had some time away for another reason) can seem quite daunting, but you should remember that you are not the first doctor to be in this position.

Returning to Work

You may not have opened a medical journal since your last job or feel you are ready to start performing practical procedures right away. However, here are some ideas that can help you boost your confidence:

GMC registration and licence for those returning to medicine

Since 2009 doctors need to hold a GMC licence in order to practise in the UK, as well as being registered with the GMC. For returnees this means that you will need to apply for the licence even if you have previously (before 2009) been registered before the licensing arrangements came into place.

If you have been overseas in a medical related job and are returning back to the UK, then you will need to contact the GMC with proof and references for what you have been doing in order to apply for your licence.

According to GMC, ‘a certificate of good standing from any medical regulatory authority in the countries in which they have practised or held registration in the last five years (where such authorities do not exist, employer reference/s will be required)’. Source: page B21 in the following document: Licence to Practise - Guidance for Doctors.

Those who have been out of medicine for some time should contact the GMC as a period of retraining may be appropriate prior to being granted a licence to practise and you would also be advised to also contact the appropriate Royal College.

If you want to apply to CT1/ST1 and are eligible to do so, but you haven't completed the foundation programme within the last three years, you will need to submit a completed Alternative Certificate with your application. Since 1st August 2013 you now need to submit a signatory whom you have worked with for at least three months and who is happy to confirm that you have met all the foundation competencies.  You can read more about Alternative Certificates in the Medical Specialty Recruitment Applicant Handbook 2016, page 13.

The GMC also have guidelines about Approved Practice Settings. The guidelines state:

‘The APS scheme requires all UK and international medical graduates who are new to full registration, and all those applying for restoration after a significant break in practice, to work with appropriate supervision and appraisal arrangements (or assessments).’

Find out more about approved practice settings.

Returner and/or retainer schemes

If you are interested in find out about local returner and/or retainer schemes, it is best to check with your local education and training board (LETB).

It would also be recommended that you contact the appropriate Royal College, as they may well also be able to give you advice.

General practice

The General Practice National Recruitment Office has details of the GP induction and Refresher Scheme. This operates in England and Wales and enables GPs who have taken a break to return to work

If you have worked overseas as a GP this scheme will enable you to have your experience gained abroad recognised.

You’ll have the opportunity to integrate your previous skills into the current NHS and you’ll also be given learning opportunities to bring your skills to the required level.

This scheme can involve a supervised placement of up to six months in a GP practice to build up skills and restore confidence, Bursaries are also available.

Similar schemes are also available in Scotland.

Working less than full time

See our information on LTFT training.


The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has published information for those returning to practice. Find out more and download the background report.

BMJ Careers have written an article on return to practice schemes for GPs.

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