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Return to practice for allied health professionals with protected characteristics: a mixed-methods study
  1. Anita Atwal1,
  2. Vimal Sriram2,
  3. Jos Brice3
  1. 1Occupational Therapy, London South Bank University, London, UK
  2. 2Director of Allied Health Professionals, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust and Deputy Theme Lead NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Northwest London, Bristol, UK
  3. 3Return to Practice Occupational Therapist, London SouthBank University and NHS England workforce, training and education, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anita Atwal, London South Bank University-Southwark Campus, London, UK; atwala{at}


Introduction Return to practice is one mechanism for recruiting and retaining allied health professionals (AHPs) within the health and care workforce in England. It is not known how this affects persons with protected characteristics.

Aim To understand experiences of AHPs with protected characteristics of returning to the workforce through a return to practice programme.

Method A QUAL (semistructured interviews) + qual (focus group interviews) mixed-methods study. 12 online semistructured interviews with return to practice AHPs, followed by 2 online focus groups.

Results Our research identifies a new type of returners who have to use the return to practice programme as a vehicle to step into health and social care as they have not been able to find employment. A main driver to return to practice was financial reason.

Conclusion To date there, is little evidence of leaders understanding the complexities of AHPs in a return to practice programme, the considerable contribution they can make to the workplace and the current inequities that exist.

  • organisational effectiveness
  • Social Justice
  • Recruitment
  • health system

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors AA—conceptualisation, investigation, methodology, project administration and writing (original draft, review and editing). VS—methodology and writing (review and editing). All authors have read and given approval for this version of the manuscript. AA is the guarantor of the manuscript. JB—methodology, investigation, lived experience as an occupational therapist with protected characteristic on return to practice programme.

  • Funding This study is funded by NHS England through a competitive invited grant funding (ID REI 223-0034); author AA received £9573 as part of this grant.

  • Disclaimer Apart from signposting for recruitment, the funder did not have a role in the design of the study, collection, analysis and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

  • Competing interests The authors have read the journal’s policy and have the following competing interests: AA works as an associate professor in Inter-professional Working for London Southbank University. VS is a paid employee of University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration in Northwest London. The authors declare that this article presents independent research facilitated by the NIHR under the Applied Health Research (ARC) Programme for Northwest London.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Author note AA and VS are occupational therapists. AA and VS identify as BME. Both authors have worked in healthcare and academic settings and have experience in research methods and have mentored occupational therapists and other health and care professionals as part of their career. JB is an occupational therapist with lived experience of RtP and is a sandwich carer with a long-term health condition.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.