Returning to work after a period of absence – guidance for Consultant RTW/LTFT Leads

Trainees returning to work may have had a period of leave for several reasons, for example;

                Maternity leave (perhaps the most common reason)

                Long period of sickness leave

                Career break (this could be for many different reasons)

                Significant life event requiring time off

The RTW period can be a stressful one and having the opportunity to discuss issues and to devise a planned ‘phased return’ should hopefully help trainees through this period with minimal problems.

This document aims to provide a framework for planning a trainee’s RTW phase.

Other documents to read:

The RCoA provides a guidance document pertaining to RTW which is very helpful:


The Deanery has a page on the website briefly detailing some guidance about RTW:


Meeting with the trainee

Pre-period of leave

Where there is a period of planned leave (e.g. Maternity leave, career break), a pre-leave RTW meeting might be of benefit just to identify likely timing of RTW, make sure the Doctor in Training is aware of Keep-in-touch (KIT) days and to encourage the trainee to contact you regarding arranging a RTW meeting prior to their return (approx. 6-8 weeks prior).


KIT days - up to 10 are allowed but they cannot be taken during annual leave (see local trust policy). These days can also be used for study leave to attend an update course for example.


Prior to RTW

Aim to meet with the trainee pre-RTW approximately 6-8 weeks before.

This meeting should be used to:

-          Discuss how they are feeling about returning to work, whether they have any particular concerns

-          Review any CPD/KIT days/refresher courses undertaken when away

-          Review level of training, length of period of leave, whether they are returning LTFT or FT

-          Review who their ES and CT are, and how to contact them

-          Review their specific training needs – they also need to meet with their CT and/or ES on RTW to clarify these

-          Discuss if any need for Occupational Health review (particularly pertinent after period of sickness leave)

If there are likely issues that may alter training time (e.g. changing trust after a period of leave, switching to LTFT working etc.) then early communication with the Training programme director (TPD) is important to allow adequate workforce planning


With the Doctor in Training, you should then design a personalised RTW plan including:

-          how many supervised lists to be done before returning to solo work

-          how many supervised lists to be done before returning to on-call work

-          what on-call duties to return to first (e.g. day shifts before night shifts)

-          what WPBAs should be undertaken during RTW phase

-          what specialities should be covered

-          whether they need to repeat departmental induction/mandatory training

We have provided a generic RTW meeting document to help guide these meetings. It can be found on the Deanery website along with the RTW guidance documents.

The RTW plan needs to be communicated to the Doctor in Trainings ES and CT, and plans regarding lists and on-calls communicated to the department secretary and rota writer as soon as possible to accommodate specific needs.

Please note that part/all of the Doctor in Trainings RTW phase may not automatically count for training and Doctors in Training need to be aware of this. This should be reviewed at their RTW ARCP (usually done soon after RTW) and addressed if necessary.


Once the Doctor in Training has RTW

Arrange a repeat meeting with the Doctor in Training (e.g. 2-4 weeks after RTW), prior to resuming on-call duties if possible. This is to review:

-          How the Doctor in Training is doing and how they feel their RTW phase is going

-          Any potential issues or problems the Doctor in Training is having

-          Whether the Doctor in Training is ready to return to solo work/on-call duties

-          Any assessments they have completed

If the Doctor in Training is struggling they may need more time working under supervision to improve their confidence or they may just need some reassurance.



The Doctor in Training will be asked to attend a RTW ARCP at some point, around the time they RTW or just after. The purpose of this is to review their stage of training and what their ongoing training needs are. They are not required to fill in any paperwork for this.


LTFT training:

If the Doctor in Training is working LTFT for the first time they may ask questions prior to their RTW regarding the process for switching to LTFT and what tasks they need to do.

There are some very useful and comprehensive guides to be found on the Deanery and RCoA websites to point the Doctors in Training towards, or for you to refer to if needed.

As more and more Doctors in Training are switching to LTFT working you may find it useful to have a read of these websites/documents at some point.



Please contact the current STC LTFT Trainee Representative or the STC Consultant LTFT Representative if you have any questions. The Deanery will have their details.