Covid-19: Frequently Asked Questions (Healthcare students)

We have received many questions from students and have created a set of FAQs that answer the most common and important queries. You will appreciate that in some cases we will not have the answer yet and will need to work these through with other bodies. You will also find information for students from:

01. What are the options for first year students during the emergency? (UK)

First year nursing, midwifery and AHP undergraduate students will be able to spend up to 100% of their programme in theory or academic learning whilst clinical placements are paused.

First year students may volunteer or undertake paid work in a clinical setting in their own time, but this will not be counted as experience required to complete their pre-registration programme.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has dropped the 12-week progression rule for first year students and assessments can be conducted later in the programme.

02. What are the options for second year students and those in the first six months of their third year? (UK)

For nursing and midwifery students in the second year of their programme or the first six months of the third year:

These students will be invited to opt-in to an arrangement where they spend 80% of time in clinical practice, which would be remunerated (and will count towards practice hours as it will be part of the student’s programme), and 20% in academic study during this emergency period.

For AHP students in the second year of their programme or the first six months of the third year:

These students will be invited to opt-in to an arrangement whereby they can spend a maximum of 60% of their time in a support worker role, which would be remunerated, and a minimum of 40% of their time in academic study.

03. What are the options for third year students in the final six months? (UK)

For third year nursing students in their final six months:

These students can opt to undertake their final six months of their programme as a clinical placement.

For third year midwifery students in their final six months:

These students can opt to undertake their final six months of their programme as a clinical placement.

Final year AHP students:

The HCPC’s temporary register has been opened for final year students on UK approved programmes, who have completed all their clinical practice placements. We would encourage students to ensure the timely completion of their studies and prioritise their programmes before joining the temporary register.

04. At what level will students who decide to undertake an extended placement be paid? (UK)

Arrangements will be made nationally across the four nations of the UK. These arrangements only apply to those students who decide to opt to support service during Covid-19.

England

In England, nursing and midwifery students who are in the second year or the first six months of the final year of their undergraduate programme, or postgraduate pre-registration students not in the last 6 months of their programme, will be paid at Agenda for Change Band 3 whilst they are on their extended practice placement.

AHP students in year 2 of an undergraduate programme and all final year students who have not completed all their clinical placements will be paid at Band 3.

Nursing and midwifery students who are in the final six months of their undergraduate or postgraduate programme will be paid at Band 4 whilst they opt to on an extended practice placement.

For those AHP students on the HCPC’s temporary register (already open) they will be paid at Band 5.

Wales

In Wales, it is expected that second year students, third year students in the first six months and postgraduate pre-registration nursing and midwifery students not in the last 6 months of their programme, who opt-in to the arrangement will be remunerated on Agenda for Change Band 3. Nursing and midwifery students who opt-in to undertake the final six months of the programme as a clinical placement will be remunerated on Band 4.

Scotland

The Scottish Government has confirmed that nursing and midwifery students in their second or third year or the first 6 months of their fourth year will be paid at Band 3 for their time on placement. Nursing and midwifery students who are in the last 6 months of their programme will be paid at Band 4 when they are on the extended placement.

Northern Ireland

We are awaiting further information about arrangements in Northern Ireland.

05. What are the options for nursing and midwifery postgraduate pre-registration students? (UK)

Nursing and midwifery postgraduate pre-registration students not in the last 6 months of their programme will be asked to opt-in to an arrangement, whereby they spend no more than 80% of their time in clinical practice and 20% in academic study. It is expected that in the majority of cases they will be paid at Agenda for Change Band 3 level.

Nursing and midwifery postgraduate pre-registration students in the last 6 months of their programme will be asked to opt-in to an arrangement whereby they move into clinical practice. It is expected that in the majority of cases they will be paid at Band 4 level.

06. What are the options for AHP postgraduate pre-registration students? (UK)

AHP postgraduate pre-registration students who have not completed all of their clinical placements will be invited to opt-in to a revised programme structure. They will be able to spend a maximum of 60% of their time in a support worker role, which would be remunerated, and a minimum of 40% of their time in academic study. It is expected that they would be paid at Agenda for Change Band 3 level on a fixed-term contract.

AHP postgraduate pre-registration students who have completed all of their clinical placements to a satisfactory standard, determined by universities, will be automatically included on a temporary emergency register by the HCPC to enable them to be employed as an AHP prior to graduating, should they wish to do so. It is likely that final year students on the temporary register who are employed on a fixed-term NHS contract will be paid at the starting point of Band 5.

In some cases, where students have not completed all their clinical placements, the university may find alternative ways to demonstrate the same learning allowing students to progress to the temporary register.

07. Are these options voluntary? (UK)

Yes. These arrangements are voluntary, and students can opt out at any point. Students who opt out of these options, such as for health reasons, will need to discuss with their university what alternative options will be available to them. This could include continuing with academic/theory learning or interrupting their studies. Universities are committed to supporting student choice where possible.

08. What happens if a student opts-in to take up a placement but later withdraws? (UK)

Universities have a responsibility to support all their students taking into consideration their individual situation, including if you change your mind. This may include continuing your programme in an alternative capacity, via academic/theory learning, or interrupting your studies.

09. What if I’m concerned about my health, I’m pregnant, immunosuppressed, have health problems or am a primary carer? (UK)

Given the increased risks associated with Covid-19 in those with co-morbidity and in the elderly population, we would of course advise against taking up patient-facing clinical work if you belong to this group. There are a range of opportunities you may wish to consider in non-patient facing roles that may be more suited and these can be discussed in more detail as part of your bespoke offer. For more information on vulnerable groups please see the Government’s guidance.

10. What if students choose not to take part in these new arrangements? (UK)

These arrangements are voluntary and students can opt out at any point. Students who opt out of these arrangements will need to discuss with their university what alternative options will be available to them. This could include continuing with academic/theory learning or interrupting their studies.

11. If my practice placement is paused, what are my options? (UK)

These arrangements are voluntary and if you do not feel able to opt in you will be supported by your university to consider the options available to you including continuing with the academic elements of your study through distance learning/online approaches or an authorised break in your studies.

12. Can I undertake these options on a part-time basis? (UK)

Your working hours and pattern will be agreed between you, your university and the organisation in which you will be on an extended placement. This agreement will take into account working time regulations and expectations that sufficient rest time is provided.

13. I’m already bank staff at my local hospital, can I undertake my placement there? (UK)

A student’s home placement will ordinarily be prioritised. This may be different to where you are bank staff. You should discuss your options with your university.

14. Is the six month extended placement for nursing and midwifery students in their final year a commitment of that period of time? What if you could complete your hours within six months? (UK)

No, not necessarily. If you can complete your hours requirement and move onto the full register within six months then your placement need not last six months. This is something that you should discuss with your university.

15. When I reach the final six months of my programme will I have the same options as the students who are currently in their last six months? (UK)

This depends on the length of the emergency. However, at present when you reach the final six months of your programme you will have the same options as the students currently in their last six months.

16. Will hours spent in clinical practice count towards placement hours? (UK)

For nursing and midwifery students, the hours spent on programme in clinical practice can be used to count towards placement hours. This is not the case if students decide to suspend their study and work as a healthcare support worker.

For AHPs, the aim is that, where possible, the hours that you work in practice will count, at least in part, as clinical placement time. Each university will work with students to maximise the opportunity for work hours to count as clinical placement time where possible.

Universities will have to decide whether a student who has joined a temporary register or undertaken an extended clinical placement, has met all of the necessary outcomes of their programme. Students will still need to demonstrate that the required competencies and learning outcomes are signed off before they can join the full register. Students will need to be advised about learning outcomes that have not been met and arrangements to meet these requirements in order to join the full register.

17. Will students who join a clinical placement or temporary register need to complete outstanding academic assignments? (UK)

Universities will have to decide whether a student who has joined a temporary register or undertaken an extended clinical placement, has met all of the necessary outcomes of their programme. Students will still need to demonstrate that the required competencies and learning outcomes are signed off before they can join the full register. Students will need to be advised about learning outcomes that have not been met and arrangements to meet these requirements in order to join the full register.

18. Will students in practice be covered by indemnity schemes? (UK)

Yes. In England, the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts (CNST) will cover student nurses, midwives and AHPs working for NHS trusts, and the Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice (CNSGP) will cover student nurses, midwives and AHPs who work for general practices undertaking normal NHS contracted work. These arrangements should cover all healthcare workers for the majority of cases of NHS services. The Government is planning to introduce additional indemnity coverage for clinical negligence liabilities that may arise when healthcare workers and others are working as part of the COVID-19 response, or undertaking NHS work to backfill others, in the event that existing arrangements (CNST, CNSGP or individual arrangements) do not cover a particular activity.

In Wales, arrangements are in place to indemnify healthcare workers for NHS work they already do, through state indemnity schemes operated by NWSSP Legal & Risk Services on behalf of the Welsh Government. During a pandemic, existing indemnity arrangements will continue.

The Welsh Risk Pool will cover student nurses and midwives working for NHS Health Boards/Trusts and will cover student nurses and midwives who work for general practices undertaking normal NHS contracted work. Further clarity about arrangements for allied health students is needed.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that students in practice will be covered by indemnity as all other NHS staff.

We are awaiting further information on arrangements in Northern Ireland.

19. What supervision will there be for students in practice? (UK)

All students in practice should continue to receive supervision. For nursing and midwifery students it will not be possible for students on clinical placement to be supernumerary during the emergency. However, students will still be expected to receive appropriate support and supervision within an agreed delegation framework. This should be in line with the NMC Standards of Student Supervision and Assessment (2018).

The level of supervision will depend on the ability and competency of the individual student. Employers also have a moral and statutory duty of care to protect employees’ health and safety and provide a safe environment to work.

20. Will there be support for the mental wellbeing of students? (UK)

Universities have a responsibility to continue to support students in practice. If you move into clinical practice on the temporary register you will have a line manager who will provide support.

Employers have a moral and statutory duty of care to protect employee’s health and safety and provide a safe environment to work. NHS organisations need to be proactive in protecting employees and supporting them to feel safe and secure in their employment.

You can access the NHS Health and Wellbeing Framework here.

21. What should students do if they do not feel that they have adequate access to PPE? (UK)

Universities have a responsibility to continue to support students in practice. Employers also have a moral and statutory duty of care to protect employee’s health and safety and provide a safe environment to work. NHS organisations need to be proactive in protecting employees and supporting them to feel safe and secure in their employment.

If you are not equipped with adequate PPE, please inform your practice placement provider and university immediately.

22. How will caring responsibilities for students with children be managed? (UK)

The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that students undertaking clinical healthcare programmes are contributing to the national Covid-19 response and can self-identify as key workers. Schools and childcare providers have been asked to continue to provide care for children of key workers. If you require any evidence to support discussions with your school or childcare provider this can be obtained via your university.

23. Will student loan payments in England continue? (Eng)

Yes. The Student Loans Company (SLC) has confirmed that students will receive the scheduled or next instalment of their maintenance loan at the planned start of their summer term, regardless of whether their university of provider has made alternative arrangements for teaching.

24. What will happen to Learning Support Fund payments in England? (Eng)

The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that all Learning Support Fund payments will continue to be paid during this period. Eligible students should continue to apply for payments through the NHS Business Services Authority in the same way as they do now.

25. Will recently announced maintenance grants for healthcare students in England still be implemented? (Eng)

The Government remains committed to implementing the recently announced maintenance grants to the timescales previously announced. Eligible students will be notified of the application process in due course.

26. Will nursing and midwifery students in Scotland continue to receive the bursary? (Sct)

Yes, it has been agreed in Scotland that nursing and midwifery students will continue to receive their existing bursary, and any SAAS-paid allowances.

27. Will nursing and midwifery students in Wales continue to receive the bursary? (Wal)

Yes. The NHS Wales bursary will continue to be paid during this period. Eligible students should continue to apply for payments through the NHS Student Awards Service in the same way as they do now.

For those students who have opted to fund their studies with a student loan or top up loan, Student Finance Wales has confirmed that students will receive the scheduled or next instalment of their maintenance loan at the planned start of their summer term, regardless of whether their university has made alternative arrangements for teaching.

28. My student visa is about to expire, am I able to stay in the UK? (UK)

If your visa expired after the 24 January and you cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation then your visa can be extended until 31 May. This extension may last longer if needed. If you need to extend your visa you should contact the Covid-19 immigration team CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk who can issue your visa extension.

29. Will my student visa be breached if I work for more than 20 hours and if my university is only providing distance learning? (UK)

The Home Office is waiving a number of requirements on visa sponsors so your course now being delivered by distance learning will not breach your visa requirements if your university is your visa sponsor. They have also lifted the limit on the number of hours you can work during term time if you are working for the NHS for nurses, midwives and AHP students.

30. As an international student, will I be able to stay in university accommodation? (UK)

The Government has issued advice that its ‘non-eviction’ policy should be adhered to if students have no alternative residence. If your contract is up, or if your rental agreement does not cover holiday periods, you should not be evicted from your accommodation.