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Paid clinical placements: final-year nursing students called in to plug staffing gaps

COVID-19 crisis prompts appeal for volunteers to shore-up nursing workforce

NMC re-introduces paid clinical placements, after plea for help from health secretary Matt Hancock and NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens

Final-year nursing students are being called on to shore up the NHS workforce by undertaking paid placements, for a second time in the pandemic.

The decision to ask the students to plug nurse staffing gaps was made by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in the face of continued, intense pressures in the health service.

Government and NHS appeal for staffing support

The regulator said it was responding to a request from health and social secretary Matt Hancock and NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said: The changes weve made today will enable students to continue learning, while allowing

NMC re-introduces paid clinical placements, after plea for help from health secretary Matt Hancock and NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens


Picture: PA / Alamy

Final-year nursing students are being called on to shore up the NHS workforce by undertaking paid placements, for a second time in the pandemic. 

The decision to ask the students to plug nurse staffing gaps was made by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in the face of ‘continued, intense’ pressures in the health service. 

Government and NHS appeal for staffing support

The regulator said it was responding to a request from health and social secretary Matt Hancock and NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens. 

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said: ‘The changes we’ve made today will enable students to continue learning, while allowing student nurses in their final year to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 where they wish to do so.’

A controversial move

The decision to deploy final-year student volunteers in this way attracted controversy during the first wave of coronavirus, with some in the profession concerned about the principle of salaried training, as well as employment rights and workplace status.

The first phase of paid placements was suspended in September 2020.

PPE and coronavirus risk assessments

Employers will be responsible for ensuring students have appropriate personal protective equipment, and undergo risk assessments, in light of evidence that COVID-19 affects people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds disproportionately.

‘We will work with partners to ensure all students are supported… and that they learn and develop as well as provide support to the NHS’

Mark Radford, chief nurse, Health Education England

The NMC said it hoped disruption to first-year placements can be avoided but acknowledged this may not always be possible.

All other undergraduate nursing and midwifery students and postgraduate diploma or master’s students will continue to have supernumerary status when on clinical placement. 

Health Education England’s chief nurse, Mark Radford said: ‘While we hoped we would not need to, we once again ask our third-years to be part of the response. 

‘We will work with partners to ensure all students are supported whichever year group, wherever they work, and that they learn and develop as well as provide support to the NHS.’


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