Returning to radiography practice explained

Natasha Pisarski and Natalie Matchett of Health Education England explain the Return to Practice programme

Published: 28 February 2022 Careers

The Return to Practice (RTP) programme from Health Education England (HEE) supports former Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registrants, who have left their professions, to re-enter and gain their registration. Since the programme began in 2017, more than 600 allied health professionals have been helped to return to the HCPC register.

A great milestone was achieved last month when the cumulative total of radiographer returners hit the 100 mark – 21 therapeutic and 79 diagnostic. This is great news. We welcome them back and value their contribution.

In the HEE Supervised Practice Survey 2021, returners told us they wanted support in finding supervised practice, more flexible working and a centralised point of contact in organisations with knowledge of the RTP HCPC requirements and the HEE RTP programme.

They noted a lack of clarity in how to return to practice and mentioned difficulties associated with attaining placements. The RTP programme, in collaboration with HEE and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, aims to assist with these issues and improve the RTP experience for radiographers.

What’s involved?

If you are registered with the HCPC and have been out of the profession for less than two years, there is no need for any additional study or work experience. You can apply for relevant jobs straight away. Radiographers who have been off the register for more than two years will need to complete the RTP 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 help and peer support through a closed Facebook group. The programme is also about to offer returnees HEE leadership placements with the help of our AHP regional leads.

RTP 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 for 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 RTP 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 (for example, online supervision sessions, training, videos).
  • Look at what your team can offer (not what it cannot); 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 RTP, that is, 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 of RTP for organisations?

  • RTP 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. On average, people leave the HCPC register aged 44 with nine years’ experience
  • and 60% leave when they are Band 7 or above (HEE/GEO survey 2021).
  • If returners are well supported, evidence suggests they are highly likely to seek employment with that organisation, reducing recruitment and agency costs, and increasing bank capacity.
  • RTP is a quick and economical way to increase supply. The average cost of returners to an organisation is £1,175, and re-registration can take place in six to 12 weeks.

The HEE RTP programme team can provide support on all these issues. Email us at [email protected]

Radiographers and employers can access support through the SoR website at

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, AHP leads will have links to the key contacts and HR departments can advise on mechanismsto return, with service leads being the main contact for returnees.