COVID-19: retired doctors returning to work

This guidance is for retired doctors choosing to return to work and your pension, performers list regulations, indemnity, what work you can perform and technology.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors Retired doctors
Updated: Friday 15 January 2021
Helping with the vaccination programme


Doctors who offer their support in delivering the COVID vaccine programme in primary care will be exempt from the requirement to be included on the England medical performers list.


Read more in our COVID vaccination programme workforce guidance.

Returning to clinical practice during the emergency

The GMC granted temporary registration to additional doctors under its emergency powers, so that they are able to help with the coronavirus pandemic. This included:

  • 15,500 doctors who had given up their registration or licence to practise within the last three years
  • nearly 6,800 doctors with a UK address who gave up their registration between three and six years ago
  • a further 12,000 doctors with a UK address who are GMC registered, but who do not currently hold a licence to practise. 

Approximately 28,000 of these doctors chose to remain on register.

Returning to work in the NHS is entirely up to you. If you do not opt out:

  • you will have been asked to complete a short survey to help determine your skills and how you can assist the health service
  • you will remain on the medical register with a license to practise for the duration of the emergency
  • you won’t be charged to re-join the medical register
  • you won’t need to revalidate during your temporary registration.

The GMC will share your details with the health service in the country of your registered address (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales). It will be for them to get in touch with you if they want to ask you to return to practice.

Secondary care doctors may find it useful to read the BMA’s advice for returning to clinical practice.

Opting out

If you want to opt out now or any time in the future, you can:


If you haven’t been contacted you can also email the GMC at [email protected] or call them on 0161 923 6602 to let them know that you would like to volunteer and to confirm your contact details.

 The GMC will confirm whether you are eligible to return to the workforce.


UK wide NHS performers list regulations

GPs in England wishing to return to general practice during the emergency

NHS England invited GPs who left the performers list in the past three to five years to be put back on the performers list as an emergency registered practitioner. 

 In addition to this, a new category of registration is being offered for those who have been not been on the national performers list for five to 10 years which is being called fast track COVID-19 application (FTC19).

When a form has been received, NHS England will confirm whether you have been added to the list.

Primary care providers looking to secure your skills will need to see evidence that you are on the list as part of the governance arrangements that they will need to comply with.

If you do not hear from NHS England and you wish to offer your services, please email [email protected].   

DBS checks

You are required to have a valid DBS certificate in order to work. If you have recently obtained or maintained one, a new certificate may not be necessary. 

Your pay and contract - doctors returning to secondary care

If you are returning to work in a medical role you will be paid on the appropriate contract for the role you are fulfilling providing you return to the same responsibility.

If you want to return to a more junior role than the role you retired from, you should be paid at the top of the pay scale in the more junior role.

See more guidance from NHS Employers on terms and conditions for hospital doctors during COVID-19 in England.

For support on contractual matters please contact [email protected].


Your pension

The Government has suspended the rule that prevents NHS staff who return to work after retirement from working more than 16 hours per week.

They have also suspended rules on abatement and drawn down of NHS pensions that apply to certain retirees who return to work. This is to allow skilled and experienced staff who have recently retired from the NHS to return to work, and also allow retired staff who have already returned to work to increase their commitments if required, without having their pension benefits suspended.

Death in service cover

In England

In England the Government announced a life assurance scheme for frontline health and care staff during pandemic. Families of eligible workers who die from coronavirus in the course of their frontline work will receive a £60,000 payment. This will be separate to the death in service benefits within the NHS pension scheme. Read our guidance on how the life assurance scheme works.

In Wales

Wales has a life assurance scheme similar to the England scheme.

In Scotland

Scotland announced that all staff affected by COVID-19 as a result of providing frontline treatment for COVID-19 patients will receive the full lump sum and survivor’s pension benefits available under the terms of the NHS pension scheme. This includes both permanent and fixed-term staff who are not members of the pension scheme, NHS bank and locum staff. Read more from Scottish Government.

In Northern Ireland 

The Health and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme

The HSC Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme means that in the event of a staff member dying due to COVID-19, a lump sum payment of £60,000 will be made to their estate, if they meet the qualifying work-related criteria for the scheme. The scheme is non-contributory, meaning there is no cost to staff or employers.

The new scheme is independent of the HSC Pension Scheme. Any lump sum or pension benefits payable to the relatives or dependents of HSC Pension Scheme members will continue to be processed and paid as before.

The HSC Pension Scheme entitlements 

If you die within five years of retirement, a balancing lump sum payment will be payable to your dependents, as well as a spouse’s pension, equal to the lesser of:

  • 5 x pension less pension already paid or
  • 2 x actual annual pensionable salary at retirement less any retirement lump sum claimed (for primary care doctors annual salary means is the average annual dynamised remuneration at retirement).

See more information on death in service benefits from NHS Employers.

More information about your pension is available from the BMA.

If you have questions about your pension, contact [email protected].


Your indemnity cover

Indemnity for NHS clinical negligence liabilities relating to the coronavirus outbreak not covered by an existing indemnity are being provided for by the Government.

This will ensure that you are legally protected for the work you undertake as part of the COVID-19 response.


The type of work you can perform

Training authorities and employing organisations will determine the range of work you can do based on your skills and experience.

For example, an NHS employing organisation will make sure anyone asked to supervise others is adequately trained and competent to do so.

Your training requirements will be assessed based on what is being asked of you, your experience and skills, and how long you have been out of practice. 

The type of work you may be able to undertake will vary and some work will carry more risk, for example you may be needed to work in:

  • patient-facing roles, including remote consultations
  • non-patient facing roles such as drug management tasks, lab results etc
  • triage support in call centres / NHS111.

Once you are back on the medical register there will be no legal barrier to you undertaking training or supervisory roles.

Your employer must make sure that you have the support and training you need to practice safely.  

Your employer must make sure that adequate support is given to your supervising doctor(s) to manage their additional workload.

GPs working for CCAS

NHSEI has been employing returning GPs on a standard contract with the COVID clinical advice service. Some GPs have then been utilised by local practices.

The standard contract being used does not mirror the standard salaried GP contract, and we do not consider it to provide appropriate rates of pay or conditions.

For support on contractual matters please contact [email protected].

Working outside your specialty

It is reasonable for you to be asked to work outside your specialty. However, you should work within your competence.


Your health and wellbeing

Your employer should particularly bear in mind those who are at higher risk of illness and consider whether it would be more appropriate for them to be deployed in low-risk settings. 

Your employer should undertake an individual risk assessment with you before starting work. The outcome of the risk assessment will help to determine the type of work you might do.

If you have underlying long-term health conditions, you should let your line manager know if there is a worsening of your condition, as it might put you at greater risk.

The BMA has a 24/7 counselling line for doctors and medical students should you need support.

Your employer should also:

  • make sure returning staff have access to a local OH service and receive basic OH screenings/assessments and necessary occupational immunisations if they are in contact with patients. Recent retirees are likely to have had appropriate OH screening previously
  • inform returning staff of the latest COVID-19 government and PHE advice for health professionals
  • make sure staff receive a proper induction with their line manager and agree a plan for return, working hours, accommodating adjustments and any specific concerns, learning needs and required assessments
  • signpost staff to wellbeing support services - including counselling and employee assistance programmes
  • make sure staff with direct patient contact are familiar with necessary operating procedures and are trained in using equipment e.g. PPE
  • ensure staff are looking after their wellbeing, take breaks, eat regularly, keep hydrated and have access to spaces where they can rest
  • keep in regular contact and ensure staff are not feeling isolated if they work remotely.

The BMA has published guidance on health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic

For more information see NHS Employers guidance on occupational health



Your employer should:

  • ensure staff have access to the IT tools and equipment they need to carry out their duties. They will need to have access to smartcards, systems, online consultation software, remote desktops, log-ins, and additional licenses may need to be purchased
  • encourage remote consultations and home working for at-risk staff and ensure they receive the necessary induction and training to use any software and hardware. When working remotely, staff may require equipment such as headsets (with a mic), webcams, telephones, dongles, tokens, and laptops and access to the networks/WiFi
  • in line with advice from NHSX, allow staff to use personal equipment if there is no practical alternative
  • provide GDPR training where it is requested or deemed necessary. They should clearly outline what constitutes a breach of regulations and where an employer or employee is liable for this.

Read our guidance on video consultations and homeworking.


Raising concerns at work

If you have concerns about patient safety, you have a duty to raise those with management.

Read our guide to raising concerns for more information and support.


Need help? For 24/7 emergency COVID advice please call us. For all other non-emergency enquiries normal opening times apply.
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