The Return to Practice Programme: Portfolio route

Welcome to the Portfolio route, a pathway to the Return to Practice Programme. We are delighted that you are considering returning to general practice in the NHS, and we want to make this transition as easy as possible.

The Portfolio route is designed for: 

  • doctors who have previously worked independently and unsupervised as a general practitioner in the UK and have had a break of up to ten years from NHS general practice, while working as a general practitioner overseas or outside the NHS, and now want to return
  • doctors who moved overseas to work as a general practitioner soon after gaining their CCT or CEGPR in the UK and have had a break of up to ten years from NHS general practice, while working as a general practitioner overseas or outside the NHS, and now want to return.

If you’ve had a break from working as a general practitioner in the NHS, you will need to discuss the tailored support you may need to return to practice safely with your local Returner team, before re-joining the National Medical Performers List and applying for jobs in general practice. This may include a period of refresher training.

The Portfolio route was first introduced in England. However, with the consent of the relevant home nation Return to Practice Programme, it may also be applied in Wales and Northern Ireland.

In England, refresher training is offered by the Return to Practice Programme and is managed by NHS England and the GP National Recruitment Office (NRO). You will not have to pay for your refresher period. First, you must register with the GP National Recruitment Office.

There are two ways of applying to the Return to Practice Programme:

  • The Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) Assessment route involves an initial assessment of multiple choice questions to determine your level of entry to the programme.
  • The Portfolio route involves preparing a portfolio of documents to demonstrate that you have maintained your GP skills and kept up to date with changes in NHS general practice while working as a general practitioner overseas or outside the NHS. 

The NRO will tell you whether you are eligible for either of these routes and if NHS England agrees that you can take the Portfolio route, the NRO will tell you how to apply and submit your portfolio. They will also tell us you have chosen this route.

Eligibility for the Portfolio route

To be eligible to apply for the Return to Practice Programme via the Portfolio route, you must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Hold JCPTGP certificate, CCT, CEGPR or GP qualification awarded in the EEA allowing direct entry to the GMC GP Register
  • Hold GMC full registration with a licence to practise or have made an application to the GMC to restore your licence to practice. (If you have given up your GMC registration and your licence to practise please read the notes below*)
  • Be included on the GMC GP Register
  • Have a minimum of one successful GMC-approved or UK military appraisal and at least a year's experience working unsupervised as a general practitioner in the NHS while on the Medical Performers List or its predecessors, or obtained a CCT or CEGPR and registered as a GP within a year of departing the UK
  • Have had a break of not more than ten years from NHS general practice at the time of applying and submitting a portfolio to the RCGP with the last five years working as a general practitioner overseas or outside the NHS
  • Any career breaks (such as maternity or other personal or statutory leave) from clinical practice in the ten-year period do not exceed three years in total and do not exceed a continuous 15-month period in the three years immediately preceding application.

The evidence which you collect for your portfolio can be useful for your revalidation appraisal in the future.

If you have given up your registration altogether (not just your licence to practice) please provide evidence of your registration status in the country where you practise currently. You do not have to show that you have begun to restore your registration before your Portfolio route application is considered. You will need to restore your registration and licence before you begin your Return to Practice Programme placement. However, do bear in mind that Restoration applications usually take between one and three months to process. You will be required to attend an identity check at the GMC offices in London or Manchester within three months of your application for restoration being approved. If you are applying from overseas you will need to make sure that you can return to the UK in time for your identity check and avoid having to make a special visit for this.

Steps to making an application via the Portfolio route

  1. Complete the first stage of registration for the Return to Practice Programme which includes an interview with the NHS England (NHSE) Return to Practice Lead for your chosen area of England. Your interview and career review can be done remotely.
  2. NHS England is asked to approve your application to the Return to Practice Programme via the Portfolio route.
  3. With NHS England approval and guidance from the NRO, apply online to the Royal College of General Practitioners. Begin collecting evidence for your portfolio. Download templates for your evidence from our website. See the 'How to make your application' section below.
  4. Your application form is reviewed by the College to make sure that you meet the criteria to apply.
  5. The College sends an email within five days to confirm that you are eligible and inviting you to submit your portfolio when your evidence is ready.
  6. Submit your portfolio via OneDrive or email.
  7. The College emails you to confirm that your portfolio of evidence has arrived.
  8. The College evaluates your portfolio and makes a recommendation to your NHSE Return to Practice Lead. The recommendation is in the form of a short report. This takes six weeks from the date the College receives your complete portfolio.
  9. The NHSE Return to Practice Lead reviews the College recommendation with the Medical Director of the local NHS England Team. They agree the final outcome and action.
  10. If your application has been successful, your case is reviewed by the Medical Director or Responsible Officer of the Regional Team. This is for entry to the Return to Practice Programme, induction modules and a placement of up to four weeks in general practice.
  11. If your application has been unsuccessful, the NHSE Return to Practice Lead will write to you, explaining the reasons and enclosing feedback from the College. You may be advised to consider applying through the Learning Needs Assessment route.

How the portfolio of evidence is evaluated

Your portfolio should document the work you have been doing since you last worked in NHS general practice.

The evaluators will look for evidence which shows your personal involvement in an activity, your reflection on it and details of any subsequent change to your practice resulting from the activity. An example would be a report of a significant event and documentation of change in your practice processes which followed.

The evaluation will consider the GMC's four domains of Good Medical Practice and how far this standard has been maintained by you while working in general practice overseas.

The evaluators will also consider whether you have kept up to date with changes in primary care in England and NHS systems and processes that affect general practice. Online learning modules about general practice organisation and medico-legal frameworks in the UK can provide useful evidence.

The portfolio is sent to a panel of three evaluators, senior members of the College experienced in making portfolio-based assessments. It takes six weeks to complete the evaluation and provide a report to the NHSE Return to Practice Lead.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the Portfolio route, contact our GP Specialist Applications team on:

Tel: 020 3188 7656