Covid-19: Frequently Asked Questions (Universities)

We have received many questions from members and have created a set of FAQs that answer the most common and important queries. If you have any urgent questions please submit them using our online form. You will appreciate that in some cases we will not have the answer yet and will need to work these through with other bodies.

01. When will the temporary register for students be opened? (UK)

The Coronavirus Act 2020 allows for the NMC and HCPC to establish temporary registers for various groups of people. This includes former registrants and third year students, including final year nursing students in the last six months of their programme and allied health students who have completed all their clinical placements.

The NMC has decided not to open their temporary register to students. The HCPC temporary register for students is open. However student progression should be the priority and every effort should be made to ensure the timely completion of final year students.

02. At what level will students who decide to do 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 op-in to support service during Covid-19.

England

In England, nursing and midwifery students who are in the final six months of their undergraduate or postgraduate programme will be paid at Agenda for Change Band 4 whilst they opt-in to an extended practice placement.

For AHP students who opt in to the HCPC’s temporary register, they will be paid at Band 5.

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

Wales

In Wales, it is expected that year 2 students, year 3 students in their first 6 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 also be remunerated on Agenda for Change Band 3. Nursing and midwifery students who opt-in to undertake their final six months of the programme as a clinical placement will be remunerated on Agenda for Change Band 4.

Scotland

The Scottish Government has confirmed that 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. 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.

Northern Ireland 

We are awaiting further information about arrangements in Northern Ireland.

03. Will the level of supervision students receive in practice change? (UK)

All students in practice should continue to receive supervision. For nursing and midwifery students this should be in line with the 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.

04. Will students who join a 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.

05. Will quality assurance processes and programme approval visits continue as normal? (UK)

For the NMC, where education institutions have not deferred their approval visit, the NMC will conduct this remotely. Questions about NMC approval visits should be directed to Mott MacDonald. The NMC has extended the timeline for implementation of pre-registration nursing and prescribing standards to September 2021.

The HCPC will contact education providers and offer them the option to postpone any scheduled visits or proceed with a virtual visit event. It will also be flexible if universities need more time to make annual monitoring submissions.

06. Will new students be recruited into programmes aligned to emergency standards? (UK)

It is unknown at present if new starters in the 2020/21 academic year will be subject to emergency programme standards. This will be determined by the length of time of the emergency.

08. Will students on NMC approved programmes still be supernumerary in practice settings? (UK)

Emergency NMC standards have enabled the suspension of supernumerary status of students during the emergency. The new emergency standards require that students on clinical placement are provided with protected learning time. The NMC defines this as: The level of supervision a student needs is based on the professional judgement of their supervisors, taking into account any associated risks and the students’ knowledge, proficiency and confidence.

Some supernumerary placements may still be available.

09. What information do we need to provide to the HCPC regarding emergency registration? (UK)

Universities can request the HCPC’s template, which you are required to fill in, from e-studentregister@hcpc-uk.org. It is important that only final year students who have completed all their required placement learning on the programme are included. The progression of students should be the priority for universities to help minimise the disruption to the workforce pipeline. You will be able to notify the HCPC periodically if you have additional students who meet their criteria for entry to the temporary register for students.

10. How can we compensate for AHP students who have not been able to complete their final clinical placement? (UK)

The HCPC’s standards are flexible in this regard and do not prescribe a minimum that must be achieved. The HCPC expects education providers to consider what is necessary to ensure learners have met the relevant learning outcomes through any practice-based learning. On this basis, it may be possible to adjust the minimum practice-based learning hours you set. If you do make an adjustment, please ensure you are clear on the reasons for doing so and ensure you can evidence this.

Every effort should be made by all parties to ensure third years students are able to complete their course and graduate in a timely manner to help minimise disruption to the workforce pipeline.

11. If third-year AHP students have not fully completed placements/hours so cannot join the HCPC’s temporary register, are these to be treated the same as second year students with additional support through to completion? (UK)

The window for HEIs to send the HCPC details of students who are eligible to enter the temporary register will remain open indefinitely. However universities should make student progression a priority and try to get final year students placement opportunities they have lost due to Covid-19.

12. If universities want to make some of these adaptations in response to the Covid-19 permanent as they find they work better, do they need to inform HCPC in the normal way? (UK)

Yes, if you want to make changes you have implemented permanent, please engage with the HCPC via their usual monitoring processes.

13. Will the flexibility offered by the HCPC apply into the next academic year? (UK)

The HCPC will keep the interim arrangements as long as necessary to support education providers to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. The HCPC will also consider how they can use our monitoring mechanisms to allow for an appropriate level of reflection and review of programmes and how they have responded to the crisis at some point in the future.

14. Is there going to be a data sharing agreement in place between the HEI and HCPC to ensure compliancy with GDPR? (UK)

The HCPC and education providers are already compliant under GDPR regarding the sharing of data for the purposes of registration via the UK approved programme route. This now also extends to the sharing of data for the purposes of the temporary registration of students.

15. How can universities protect AHP students from being asked to undertake activities they do not feel confident in providing, given that they will be employed by a health or social care organisation? (UK)

Students on the HCPC’s temporary register are under no obligation to practice. However, if they choose to do so, they become employed locally at Band 5. As such, employers become responsible to support these individuals appropriately to ensure they can practise safely. Education providers who wish to support this process can do so if local arrangements can facilitate this.

16. Are there any exclusion criteria for students to be put on the temporary register? UK)

None that are set by HCPC, beyond their requirement that temporary registration is only available to final year students who have successfully completed their required placement learning. Education providers may however deem some individuals not suitable at this time. If this is the case, education providers can choose to omit individuals from the information passed to the HCPC. Education providers should be clear on their reasons for doing so, and if needs be discuss the matter further with individual students.

17. Will the HCPC check what changes we made to teaching and assessment in the next audit? (UK)

The HCPC has not yet determined the details of this. Broadly, however, the HCPC intends to use its existing monitoring mechanisms to support a process of reflection amongst education providers regarding their approach to managing COVID-19. The HCPC will be in contact with education providers in the next academic year to discuss their specific requirements.

18. How will AHP students transition to the full HCPC register on completion of their degree? (UK)

Students would need to complete their final award in the normal way and then apply to the HCPC for registration.

19. How can universities ensure that AHP students who do not want to be on the HCPC’s temporary register are not disadvantaged by assumptions about their readiness to practice or their ‘willingness’ to practice? (UK)

Students on the HCPC’s temporary register are under no obligation to practice, nor should it be used as a judgement of their abilities and readiness in future.

20. Will the HCPC be supportive of amended assessments to provide a fast-track completion for final year students who will be working under the Covid-19 register? (UK)

In principle, yes. The HCPC expects education providers to use their professional judgement to support student progression where they can reasonably do so in a way which supports the standards.

21. Where final year AHP students are close to completing their studies, universities should encourage them to complete and join the HCPC’s permanent register. If they join the temporary register, can they use this experience to contribute towards their placement experience? (UK)

The HCPC’s approach provides flexibility for education providers to consider options locally to address this issue, and it will be a matter for each education provider to determine in discussion with their students and, where relevant, employers. Whether a student‘s time in service on temporary register can be used to contribute towards placement progression will depend on the relevance of the experience. This will need to be considered on a case by case basis by the education provider.

 

22. How can universities enable AHP students to move on to the HCPC’s temporary register when they still have a ten-week placement to complete? (UK)

At present these students would not be eligible to enter the HCPC’s temporary register. Education providers can consider making changes to their programme to enable progression, particularly as placement learning is generally unavailable at that this time. However, education providers must ensure students are still meeting all their required learning outcomes, and that students are meeting the standards of proficiency where relevant upon completion of their placement learning.

23. Can universities flex how they interpret clinical placement completion for AHP students? (UK)

Yes. This would align with the HCPC’s overall approach to programme change during this period. Education providers have flexibility to make the necessary changes needed to support student progression, including any flexing of existing requirements around placement hours. The emphasis must be placed on ensuring any changes still support the achievement of learning outcomes and HCPC standards.

24. Why is the HCPC’s temporary register so open compared to the full register in terms of students’ details and place of study? (UK)

The HCPC reviewed its initial approach which published the student’s affiliated HEI. It was decided that this is not necessary as each student will be issued with their own temporary registration number. This detail has now been removed from the temporary register.

25. How does the HCPC see the role of the HEI during the temporary register period? (UK)

HEIs have an important role in working with the HCPC to determine those individuals who are to enter the temporary register. HEIs are also responsible for ensuring that their students are aware that they are on the temporary register and communicate what this means. The HCPC has a template communication which HEIs can adapt for this purpose.

The HCPC would expect HEIs to work within the guidance during this period to support their students in progressing on the programme which should be a priority.

26. What if an AHP student passed all clinical components but they are trailing an academic module(s)? (UK)

This individual would meet the HCPC’s criteria for entry to the temporary register. However, HEIs can determine the suitability of individuals and decide not to include them based on their professional judgement.

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

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

28. 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.

29. 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.

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

Yes. The NHS 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 their scheduled or next instalment of their maintenance loan at the planned start of their summer term, regardless of whether their university or provider has made alternative arrangements for teaching.

31. How should universities respond to concerns from students about lack of PPE? (UK)

Universities have a responsibility to continue to support students in practice. If a student informs you that they are not equipped with adequate PPE, you should raise this immediately with the placement provider. In England, Health Education England (HEE) should also be informed about this. In the devolved nations, the respective government departments as well as Health and Care Improvement Wales (HEIW) and NHS Education Scotland (NES) should be informed.

32. I have students who have returned home and are no longer in the area where their placements were. Are they able to go on placement in their home area? (UK)

A student’s home placement will ordinarily be prioritised. However, if students have returned home they will be encouraged to work in their home area.

In Scotland, there still needs to be agreement that if a student works in an area outside the HEI access agreements that this can count towards their programme. This agreement will be co-ordinated between NES and universities.

33. Will students be on placements in other sectors/settings outside of the NHS? (UK)

Yes. Students will be deployed where the need is, and this could be outside of the NHS, for example in care homes.

34. 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 the 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.

35. 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 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.

36. What happens if a student opts-in to take up a placement or the temporary register but later withdraws? (UK)

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

37. What are the requirements for first year students during the emergency? (UK)

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

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

Should a university decide to continue sending first year students on placement, this would be outside of the nationally agreed guidance and it would be the responsibility of the HEI to ensure that the quality of the placement and supervision requirements are not compromised.

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

38. Will apprenticeships in England continue? (Eng)

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is encouraging training providers to deliver training to apprentices remotely, and via e-learning, as far as is practicable. It is allowing the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, including remote assessments wherever practicable and possible.

If an apprenticeship has to be interrupted due to COVID-19 for more than four weeks, employers and training providers can initiate a break in learning and should notify the ESFA. Apprentices whose gateway is delayed can have an extension to the assessment time frame.

39. Are international students whose visas have expired able to stay in the UK? (UK)

If their visa expired after 24 January and they cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation then their visa can be extended until 31 May. This is being monitored and the extension may last longer if needed. If a student needs to extend their visa then they should contact the COVD-19 immigration team CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk who issue visa extensions.

40. I have an international student who is on a Tier 4 student visa. Is there still a restriction on the number of hours they can work? (UK)

The Home Office has lifted restrictions on visa working hours. There is no longer a limit on the number of hours a student can work or volunteer each week if they have a tier 4 visa and work for the NHS as a doctor, nurse, midwife or AHP.

41. My institution is a visa sponsor for an international student. Is this sponsorship being breached by the course being delivered in a different format? (UK)

The Home Office is waiving a number of requirements on visa sponsors so courses now being delivered by distance learning will not breach visa requirements.

42. How is Covid-19 research being supported across the UK? (UK)

The NIHR is leading on Covid-19 research and working with partners across the UK to do this. NIHR has said, ‘All NHS Trusts, health and care providers and universities will need to prioritise support for studies which have been nationally prioritised. A live list of these studies is being collated.’ Health and Care Research Wales is part of this.

The CSO in Scotland has put out a call for Covid-19 research which aimed at tackling the challenges posed by the current Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland.

43. How will the prioritisation of Covid-19 research affect universities? (UK)

The NIHR has said, ‘All NHS Trusts, health and care providers and universities will need to prioritise support for studies which have been nationally prioritised.’ A live list of these studies is being collated.

44. Will research funded or supported by the NIHR be impacted? (UK)

The NIHR is encouraging health and care professionals and clinical academics who are undertaking non COVID-19 related research, to prioritise frontline work at this time. They have made provisions for studies to be ‘paused’ during this time. The NIHR have produced FAQs which provide more details on how pausing studies will work and the impact on funding.

45. Will research funded or supported by CSO Scotland or NHS Research Scotland be impacted? (Sct)

The CSO and NHS Research Scotland recognise that studies they fund may need to be paused or research plans altered. NHS Scotland has published guidance for sponsors, sites and researchers. The CSO will continue to honour CSO research grant or fellowship awards during this time, and any changes to research plans should be agreed with a CSO research manager.

46. Will research funded or supported by Health and Care Research Wales be impacted? (Wal)

Health and Care Research Wales is encouraging health and care professionals and clinical academics who are undertaking non COVID-19 related research, to prioritise frontline work. It is aware that many studies funded by Health and Care Research Wales may need to be paused. If pausing a study however will have a significant detrimental effect on the ongoing care of participants involved, then the decision to continue a study will need to be considered on a case by case basis.

47. Will research funded or supported by H&C Research and Development Division Northern Ireland be impacted? (NI)

The H&C Research and Development Division has said they will look at the impact on the studies they fund and work to ensure that appropriate support is in place. They will consider projects on a case by case basis.

48. How will this affect students undertaking research? (UK)

The Health Research Authority and devolved administrations are prioritising the review of COVID-19 related studies during this time and have stopped reviewing new applications for individual undergraduate and postgraduate student projects. This relates to applications for Research Ethics Committee (REC) review, Health Research Authority or Health and Care Research Wales (HRA and HCRW) Approval, and the R&D study-wide review in Scotland and Northern Ireland.