CPD: Returning to practice: Part 2

In the second of a two-part series on returning to practice (see Part 1 here), CSP professional adviser Nina Paterson says forward-thinking employers can reach out to a pool of untapped talent



I read a Financial Times article about returning to work after a career break recently. It spotlighted the ‘returnship’ scheme of the international financial services company Goldman Sachs. The scheme has been running since 2008. Since then, eight other companies in the field have set up similar schemes to support return to work. Each scheme works differently but all help to refresh people’s skills and knowledge. In particular, they focus on helping people to regain their confidence. 

As I read the article, I was struck by the fact that the issues raised mirrored the types of enquiries we hear at the CSP. I wondered if we could learn some lessons from another sector. In preparing this article, I discussed these themes with members. Among others, I talked to therapy service leads, managers in independent hospitals and smaller private practices, and a neuro specialist in a large NHS teaching hospital.

Benefits to your organisation

The interviewees in the Financial Times article said their supporting people to return to work gave them a chance to tap into a rich talent pool. With a little effort, they can reconnect with a motivated and experienced workforce who are ready to jump back in. All the CSP members I spoke to agreed: colleagues returning from career breaks are a valuable resource. Having left the profession initially for family, educational or travel reasons, they bring a range of skills and experience from both their previous roles and career break activities. 


As an unintended fall out of its ‘returnship activities’, the banking sector recognised the value of flexible working arrangements. For example, if you run a physiotherapy service where introducing seven-day working or a more flexible working pattern is under consideration, you may find those seeking to return to work are a good fit.

Leading by example 

It was striking how strongly helping others to return to work was seen as a priority and welcomed by the chief executives at the banking firms. Encouragement from the top developed a culture in which opportunities were generated. When we ran a session for ‘returners’ at Physiotherapy UK last year, it was good to hear managers offering supervision opportunities. They came to the event to see how they could help.

In the first article in this two-part series, Gwyn Owen mentioned the Recruitment, retention and return to practice network on iCSP. This provides a space for ‘returners’ to share their experience but it also offers a chance to let people know you can help. Health Education England is encouraging trusts to advertise return-to-practice placements on the NHS jobs site, so you might consider this as an alternative route.

How to get involved

If you are approached to help, or are interested in helping, someone return to work, the following prompts will help

  • find out what they need. Anyone preparing to return to practice will have identified their strengths and their learning needs
  • if they meet a direct need in your team that’s great. If you can’t manage everything that the returner is asking for, could you offer part of it, or something slightly different that meets your service needs?
  • familiarise yourself with what they need to do. The Health and Care Profession Council’s (HCPC) paper on returning to practice sets out the expectations. See links in the first article in the series www.csp.org.uk/frontline/article/cpd-returning-practice-part-1
  • the guidance also outlines expectations on enhanced disclosure and barring service checks, so you’ll know what should be in place. Returners who are full CSP membes will have public liability insurance cover, so you will just need to arrange an honorary contract for them
  • if members of your staff would benefit from the experience of providing peer support, how can you involve them?
  • don’t forget to record your own learning and ask for feedback. It is a great way to demonstrate to the HCPC your commitment to your own continuous professional development
  • if you haven’t been directly approached use iCSP (or similar) to let potential returners know that you are able to support them. 
  • lastly, enjoy the experience!

In their own words

Managers’ thoughts on supporting peers back into the profession …

‘We often have hard to fill posts, having people show an interest or being willing to think about coming back into these areas is great. We’ve always been responsive to that, and it is in our interest to help them gain the skills. Once they are back on the register, there’s a good chance they’ll apply for a job with us.’
‘It isn’t just about our service needs now. We offer supervised placements anyway, even if we don’t have vacancies. If they’ve had a good experience they might apply to us down the line.’

‘Determined and motivated – these are great qualities to have in someone who is a part of your team, even if they are only with you temporarily.’

‘I have staff in my team who love to help others develop or are looking for mentoring opportunities. Offering someone a return-to-practice experience is great for the returner and great for that member of staff.’

‘Someone is shadowing you but working in neuro, having another pair of hands to help, how can that not be a bonus?’


Further reading

Returning to practice: Part 1

Nina Paterson

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