Nursing students to be paid until end of COVID-19 placement contracts

HEE guidance ‘ends confusion’ for students who swapped studies for paid placements in NHS

Picture: Barney Newman

Nursing students who volunteered to undertake paid placements as part of the COVID-19 response will have their contracts honoured, it has been confirmed.

The RCN said the move followed a period of ‘confusion and distress’, as some students said paid placements were ending earlier than they had expected.

Guidance from Health Education England (HEE) states that any student in the final six months of their programme on paid placement will be fully paid until the end of their contract, unless it is ended voluntarily by the student.

All new placements beginning from August onwards will be supernumerary and unpaid, as normal.

Extended clinical placements as part of COVID-19 response

Paid placements were announced in March as part of the government’s response to the pandemic. The arangements meant nursing students would be paid from April if they chose to finish their programmes on extended clinical placements.

The HEE guidance also states:

  • Any paid placements must begin by 31 July. No new paid placements can be created after this date.
  • From 31 July, HEE will begin to return to the supernumerary placement system for those students continuing their studies.
  • Employers and approved education institutions should work with second-year students and those in the first part of their final year to aim to bring paid placements to a close no later than 31 August. This will be part of a voluntary learning agreement between the student, placement provider and education institution.

RCN students committee chair Jessica Sainsbury said nursing students on these placements would feel reassured by the news.

‘Lack of clarity has led to confusion and distress’

She said: ‘A lack of clarity and information around this issue has led to confusion and distress, at a time when those who have responded to the pandemic simply want to focus on their role and do the best job they can for their patients.

‘As things return to normal, students entering supernumerary placements must be supported properly so they can continue to learn and add value.’

It is thought some NHS trusts may have offered nursing students six-month paid placement contracts, while others offered three months.

In the past two weeks, students have taken to social media to say the confusion has left them worried about finances.

One nursing student, Becky Jane, wrote on Facebook: ‘Some of us left jobs for this. Many of us have children and families to care for.’

The Department of Health and Social Care told the Guardian it was wrong to suggest the contracts were ever cut short.

‘We are bringing paid placements to a close by the end summer in line with course requirements, so students can qualify as registered nurses or continue with their studies as planned.

‘Any student in the last six months of their programme and on paid placement will be paid until the end of their contract, unless otherwise agreed. By the end of July most final-year students can qualify as registered nurses and start full time work, increasing their pay.'

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