Considering undertaking a returning to practice (RTP) course as a midwife in the UK?

Return to practice (RtP) midwifery courses are for midwives who have had a period of leave from midwifery practice that has led to them lapsing their registration. Please refer to our Frequently Asked Questions to help you work out if this option is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions about RtP courses

If you were a registered midwife but have had a break and are thinking about returning to practice, you may need to undertake a period of updating of your skills and knowledge through an RtP course before you can apply to rejoin the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) professional register.

  • In order to rejoin the NMC register, you must have completed 450 hours of registered practice and 35 hours of learning activity in the last three years within the UK.
  • If you cannot meet that requirement, but can meet 750 hours of practice in the last five years and 35 hours of learning activity in the last three years, you may be eligible to apply to be readmitted to the professional register and should contact the NMC directly for an application pack.
  • Practice can include supervisory, teaching, research and managerial roles, as well as providing direct care. However, practice hours completed while you were lapsed or not registered, for example if you were working as a maternity support worker or healthcare assistant, cannot be counted towards the practice requirement.

Practice could have changed considerably from when you last practised. The number of babies born each year has been much higher in recent years than at the turn of the century, and complexity has risen too. Overall, the RCM’s latest estimate (for 2016) is that the NHS in England is short of the equivalent of around 3,500 full-time midwives.

The length of time you have been away from practice will determine how long your update may need to be in order to return to the NMC register. If you do need to do a course, it must be NMC approved. Details of all approved RtP courses can be found on the NMC website. You may find that while the NMC database shows that a university has a course in approval, they are not running one. You may have to make enquiries to more than one university to secure your academic placement.

Answer: Another route back into midwifery is the NMC test of competence. Launched in January 2020, it involves an online test and an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). Unlike the return to practice course, this route is not currently funded by the NHS but this may change in the future and we expect more information to be available later in the year.

More information on the test of competence including information on how to apply is available on the NMC website.

Currently, midwives who have trained and qualified as a midwife in either the European Union or European Economic Area have a right to have their qualification recognised in the UK and to be registered with the NMC. If you have NMC registration as a result of a midwifery qualification through this route, but are having difficulty in successfully gaining employment as a midwife, then you may find undertaking a RtP course will help you gain more insight into models of midwifery practice in the UK.

The NMC may apply some conditions for registration that must be completed before registration can be given. These often include midwifery specific competencies. These must normally be completed within two years of the NMC decision. An RtP course can be one route to achieving these in addition to helping you understand the context of midwifery practice in the UK. You will need to include a copy of your NMC letter to the university you are applying to, so that they can help you meet any conditions.

You will need to find and secure an RtP vacancy. You may see these advertised on the NHS jobs website, advertised locally or you may need to contact heads of midwifery directly.

The universities that you contact for information regarding their RtP course may be able to help secure a clinical practice placement, although this is becoming more difficult. Therefore you may need to spend considerable time securing this and the mentor support for your course. This may be achievable if your course placement does not coincide with commencement of pre-registration midwifery education programmes. These are often between September and October each year.

Your local education training board (LETB) may have monies to fund tuition fees and pay bursaries to potential employers. For information on how to contact your local LETB, see the Health Education England website

If you are a midwife who is seeking re-registration with the NMC and you need help with the expenses of RtP, you can apply for a Student Award through The Iolanthe Midwifery Trust.

You may have to consider self funding. Each university cost their own course, so fees do vary between universities.