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Return to work

The RCOG has produced this guidance to support retired O&G professionals returning to practice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many retired O&G doctors will be returning to the workforce to offer their support during the COVID-19 crisis. Some will be returning to familiar roles and workplaces, to the most recent trusts where they previously worked, whereas others will be redeployed to unfamiliar environments with new systems and protocols where their skills, knowledge and professional expertise will be most needed.

This information offers practice guidance and tips for retired O&G doctors, with accessible links to clinical information, professional support and resources to help you get up to speed on the latest developments and changes. It is applicable for consultants, specialty associate specialists and locally employed doctors.

It is likely that trusts will have developed their own advice and induction programmes for returning doctors and this resource is intended to complement that support. The RCOG is committed to updating this resource as necessary to ensure the information is relevant, useful and up to date as the pandemic unfolds.

I would like to thank our members and fellows who are returning to work during this immensely pressured time to support their colleagues and the wider medical workforce in the delivery of safe care for women and their babies. I appreciate that returning to practice after a break can be challenging and overwhelming at times, and we hope that this resource and the wider support that your College can offer you will be helpful, informative and reassuring.

Warm regards,

Dr Edward Morris
President, RCOG

General guidance on returning to work has been published in recent years by the GMC, the BMA, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Royal Colleges including the RCOG. However, it focuses mainly on younger doctors who have time to plan their return after a career break.

In the current emergency the time scale is different, hence this guidance for senior doctors.

There are three possible roles for doctors returning from retirement:

  1. Patient facing clinical work
  2. Non patient facing clinical work
  3. General volunteering which could include departmental admin work.


Many doctors relinquish their GMC registration on retirement. Re-registration is currently available only to doctors who have retired within the last three years. If your registration ended more than three years ago you should ask your Trust’s Clinical Director (CD) or volunteer bureau how you can help. If you are volunteering, and not involved with clinical work, you will not need to regain GMC registration.

The GMC website includes links to general information on volunteering in the four UK nations. Volunteers should be under the age of 70 but doctors over 70 or with underling medical conditions can still provide support by telephone.

COVID precautions

  • Ensure you have been taught which Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to use in different situations and how to don and doff. Further information on this is available on the website.
  • Read any new Trust guidelines regarding managing patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, flow diagrams, telephone triage and rescheduling appointments.
  • Hospitals will be attempting to segregate suspected and confirmed COVID-19 positive patients from COVID-19 negative patients. Consider asking to work in the COVID-19 negative area.

Medicolegal issues

Clinical negligence claims against retired doctors returning to clinical work will be covered by Trust crown indemnity. You should, however, contact your medical defence organisation about the additional cover and advice that they are offering at this time. Please read the letter sent to healthcare professionals by the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS Resolution, and NHS England and NHS Improvement for more information.

GMC registration

Doctors who left the register (or gave up their licence to practise) within the last three years have automatically been given temporary registration by the GMC providing they are residing in the UK and are in a position of good standing. The GMC has already contacted these doctors.

If you have not been contacted and want to be considered for temporary registration you should send your details to  or call the GMC on 0161 923 6602.

Clinical practice

Consider what work you still feel confident to do and offer support in these areas. This will probably be less complex work than you were doing before retirement. Doctors over the age of 65 (or with medical comorbidities) may wish to request non patient contact roles such as telephone clinics, teaching or administrative support.

Telephone consultations

Ensure you have been shown how to use the necessary equipment for phone consultations, what documentation and ensure follow-up arrangements have been put in place. Be shown who to request results to be sent to in order to ensure they are checked and actioned.

Financial aspects

Unless working as a volunteer, ensure you have been registered by the Trust locum agency for payment and request not to be put back into NEST (pension contributions).

Adjusting to current practice

  • Ensure you have an induction session with one of the consultants or managers regarding: NHS smart card, IT systems access, dictation, passwords, ordering and checking results, new telephone triage methods, access to notes, electronic prescribing (if used). This is particularly important if you are working in an unfamiliar Trust or department.
  • Think about out of hours’ work including weekend and overnight duties. As a general rule, doctors over 60 should not be covering overnight shifts. Only agree to overnight work if you are sure you feel comfortable doing this.
  • Ask the CD to allocate you a ‘buddy’ with a similar clinical interest to help guide you with new systems introduced since your retirement
  • If you are going to be operating, do the first procedure with your ‘buddy’ or another senior doctor – this might be consultant, SAS or senior trainee.
  • Hand over ongoing problems at the end of your sessions to the permanent team.
  • Read the Trust guidelines on managing specific problems relevant to the role you will provide (e.g. EPU, SGA etc.)

Resources and support for returning doctors

The RCOG will provide retired members who are returning to the workplace during the COVID-19 outbreak access to online member benefits and professional resources. These will be free of charge to support doctors in their preparation for returning to work. We hope our resources and College updates will enable you to keep up to date on the latest guidance, best practice and O&G developments. If you wish to access our online resources and support please register your interest with .

RCOG resources

  • The College offers informal peer to peer support to members who are looking for guidance from their peers on return to work options, workplace issues, interpersonal difficulties or non-clinical concerns. This is not intended as a formal mentoring service but more a ‘connection’ service and a way for members to find other members who are willing and able to give guidance on handling mainly non-clinical issues. You can make an initial enquiry by submitting an online form. A panel of members from the Supporting Our Doctors Task Group review the requests and take it in turn to provide one to one support and guidance to the enquirers. This may be one-off support or may lead to an ongoing dialogue. The service is treated as strictly private and confidential. The peer to peer form is available here.
  • COVID-19 advice on this website is being constantly updated, including statements from speciality clinical groups and practical advice on clinical situations.
  • RCOG eLearning: selected eTutorials are currently available free of charge, including all the core knowledge tutorials.

Updates and guidelines

Our guidance, including the Green-top guidelines, can be found here. They can be searched by keyword.

Recommended resources

Some links to specific resources which we think may be helpful for retired doctors returning to work are listed below.


RCOG eLearning resources
RCOG Green-top guidelines


RCOG eLearning resources
RCOG Green-top guidelines:
NICE guidelines


RCOG eLearning resources
RCGP/RCOG/FSRH Women’s health library

A well organised collection of useful guidelines and articles for quick reference.


The BMA has advice for doctors returning to work, which is available here. It is also offering free membership to returning doctors up to 1 October 2020.