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COVID-19: students on unpaid placements not eligible for death in service scheme

Life assurance scheme is currently limited to those on paid placements in England – but Department of Health and Social Care says some flexibility in this is possible

Nurse in mask
Picture: iStock

Nursing students on unpaid placements in England are not automatically eligible for a death in service scheme if they were to die from COVID-19, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.

Responding to a request from Nursing Standard to clarify the rules, a DHSC spokesperson said students are only eligible for the NHS and social care coronavirus life assurance scheme for front-line staff if they are on paid placements, due to end on 31 July or 31 August.

Room for flexiblity for students on unpaid placements?

However, regarding the eligibility of students on unpaid placements, the spokesperson said there could be room for flexibility.

'The scheme also allows the health and social care secretary to consider individuals who are not automatically eligible, such as students on unpaid placements, to ensure all those who put their lives at risk and sadly die as a result are covered.'

The scheme provides for a payment of £60,000 to families of front-line staff who die due to the pandemic.

Picture of RCN students’ committee chair Jessica Sainsbury
Jessica Sainsbury
Picture: John Houlihan

RCN students’ committee chair Jessica Sainsbury said eligibility for the scheme needs to be urgently changed and argued that students, whether paid or not, were still at risk.

She said: ‘We need this changed so that it reflects the fact that students who are on unpaid supernumerary placements will be covered by this scheme.’

Staff who are currently eligible

Currently, staff are eligible if they are:

  • Employed by the NHS.
  • Exposed to the virus while at work.
  • At work in the 14 days before the onset of COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Full-time or part-time.
  • Permanent or temporary.
  • Students who are employed.
  • Retired staff who have returned to NHS employment.

Governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland say details on their death in service policy for nursing students on unpaid placements are still being finalised.

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The NHS and social care coronavirus life assurance scheme


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