Colleagues at Health Education England (HEE) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) have been working with universities around the country to identify eligible students who are available and willing to undertake paid placements in the NHS at this critical time.
Student nurses and midwives have been contacted by the Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May, and Mark Radford, the Chief Nurse at HEE, following the passing of emergency legislation to enable second and third year undergraduate students, and postgraduate students, to undertake extended paid placements to support the NHS’ response to COVID-19. This letter, sent on March 26, confirmed that these placements can be counted towards the clinical hours required for their programme of education. Download and read a copy of the letter (PDF).
Guidance for students has been prepared in consultation with universities, NHS England and NHS Improvement, HEE, staff organisations and NHS Employers. Download and read the guidance document (PDF).
There have been further discussions within the NHS Staff Council to clarify the job descriptions and banding of students stepping into the workforce during the COVID-19 crisis.
A summary of the banding position and suite of job descriptions can be found in the document about deployment of student nurses during the COVID-19 emergency (PDF).
Further information on deploying student midwives, including a summary of the banding position and job descriptions can be found in the deploying student midwives during the COVID-19 emergency document (PDF).
Funding for employing students during COVID-19
A joint HEE and NHSEI statement, dated 19 May, has been circulated to NHS trusts' HR and finance directors, outlining the funding arrangements for enabling students to undertake paid placements and work opportunities to support NHS services while remaining on their training programmes.
The letter is available to view and download on the HEE website.
The previous system of supernumerary placements has been suspended. Instead these students will now need to be contracted by NHS employers and will incur the usual employment costs (salaries, pension contributions, on-costs, travel and expenses related to work activity).
NHSEI will treat these costs as reasonable additional costs of the COVID-19 response, providing:
- they are attributable to the national policies for the deployment of students
- they contribute to the COVID-19 response
- trusts only claim excess costs
- trainees are put into vacant posts where possible
- costs are only claimed up to 31 July 2020, as regular student placements should resume for the new academic year. Any students delivering services after this date would be entitled to be paid.
Please note that students receiving payment for undertaking the new format of placement are entering into an NHS contract and therefore can access essential employee benefits (primarily death in service and pension).
Eligible students and the process
Initially, universities were asked just to focus on third year students in the final six months of their courses. This has since expanded to all eligible nursing and midwifery students. An allied health professionals (AHPs) data collection has also been launched to support a similar process for eligible AHP students.
Students who are willing to opt-in to the offer are being asked initially to confirm their intention to their university, which will support them in making this decision. The university will pass information to HEE through an online portal, so that students can be deployed through the regional workforce cells to appropriate trusts and providers. Each regional workforce cell will work with local universities and trusts to ensure the best local approach is adopted. Contact your regional HEE team if you have any queries about the deployment process.
The status of the students throughout this process is both a student and an employee, both are equally important to ensure safe deployment. As an employer of the student, it is not necessary for references, occupational health or DBS checks to be made as these will already have been undertaken by the university. The student will need an NHS employment contract for a fixed-term.
The cost of the deployment and employment of the students should be included by the trust in any request for COVID-19 costs. To support this, HEE is ensuring that all student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals working in the agreed student employment status with service providers are on a new national database to enable national financial tracking of this cost.