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COVID-19: students receive clarity on option to see out studies on placements

Nursing and Midwifery Council approves measures for nursing students during the COVID-19 pandemic

Picture of a nursing student caring for an older patient
Picture: John Houlihan

Nursing students in their final six months who opt to finish their programmes on extended clinical placements will be paid, regardless of whether they go on to join the COVID-19 emergency register.

A range of emergency measures were approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) on 25 March.

Final-year nursing students in their final six months now have the option to:

  • Finish their courses on a paid, extended, clinical placement for six months
  • Step off programmes until the crisis is over or step off and take up employment as healthcare assistants
  • Continue their programmes on the same basis if this option is available given university resources

In addition, students who undertake extended clinical placements may be nominated by their universities to join a temporary COVID-19 emergency register, which could come into effect within days. This would be optional.

Pay rates for students to be decided by each UK government

The pay rates for nursing students on extended placements and for those who also join the emergency register will be decided by UK governments.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have already confirmed students will be paid initially at band 4.

Additionally, Health Education England has created a tool for universities to submit regular information about their students to help them identify those eligible to join the temporary register.

Those joining would have to abide by certain conditions of practice, including 'working at all times with, but not always directly observed' by a registered healthcare professional who is not on a temporary register.

Registrants must have been assessed as competent

Student registrants must not carry out any activities for which they have not been assessed as competent during their training without appropriate supervision, unless a life-saving intervention is required to avoid sudden and unexpected death.

Education standards have been changed:

  • First-year students may pause placements and spend 100% of their first-year programmes in theory or academic learning.
  • Second- and third-year students, final-year students in their first six months of study, and first-year postgraduate students can spend up to 80% of their hours in clinical placements and 20% in theoretical learning.

Thousands of former nurses offer to return to service

Following a UK-wide appeal, 6,304 nurses who left the NMC register within the last three years, have offered to return to service. 

The NMC hopes to further expand the emergency register by inviting 3,000 qualified nurses from overseas who are already living in the UK, but are only halfway through registration, to join.

It may also expand invitations to former nurses who left the register in the past three to five years.

On 24 March, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said 18,700 nursing students will move to the front line to help against COVID-19.

It has since been clarified that these final-year nursing students will be asked to undertake their final clinical placement in COVID-19-related roles, meaning the final number of those who opt to do so could be less than 18,700.

View our COVID-19 resources


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