Student nurses who joined the NHS frontline in paid positions to assist in the fight against the coronavirus have had their contracts terminated early as the virus is brought under control.
Up to 18,700 final-year students moved to the frontline to aid the fight against the coronavirus earlier this year, but many who were expecting their paid placements to last until the end of July will see their contracts terminated at the end of this month.
The vital work student nurses have been doing throughout the pandemic has demonstrated the huge contribution nursing undergraduates make to our health and care services. The commitments they made should be honoured during any transition back to established programme structures,” – Mike Adams, Royal College of Nursing
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Parliament that this was “no way to treat student nursing staff”.
Health secretary Matt Hancock responded by saying it was wrong to suggest that the student nurses were being made redundant.
“All student nurses and midwives are required to complete placements during their training,” he said. “As part of the response to Covid-19 these hours are being paid and will be until the end of the summer. NHS England has been provided with the funding for student salaries as part of our response to Covid-19 and the chief nurse has taken that forward.”
One student nurse said: “Some of us left jobs for this. Many of us have children and families to care for. All of us will come out with a debt [exceeding] £30,000 for doing a degree we have such passion for. A degree we were told we would be valued for. This has recently been proved not to be the case.”
It appears as though the NHS student nurses who bravely stepped up, 6 months before graduating, to help staff the pandemic have now been hung out to dry.
— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) June 17, 2020
Mike Adams, the director for England at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We urge Health Education England and the NHS in England to offer some clarity for students about the way forward.
“The vital work student nurses have been doing throughout the pandemic has demonstrated the huge contribution nursing undergraduates make to our health and care services. The commitments they made should be honoured during any transition back to established programme structures.”
In a statement, Health Education England chief nurse Mark Radford said final year placements are usually unpaid, but had been funded during the pandemic to recognise the “special circumstances”.
He said that year 3 students will be paid until 31 July and can qualify and be paid as a full registered nurses if they have completed the required hours and assessments.
“Any year 3 student who has hours to complete will be paid until September to allow them to do this. Any year 2 students on placement [until] 31 July will be paid and after this normal non-paid placements will be re-introduced along with Year 1 students,” he said.
“We committed at the outset of the pandemic to ensure that these students complete their training and are able to qualify. It was always made clear to students who opted into paid placements the arrangements would need to come to an end at an appropriate point so that students could return to their supernumerary status to complete their registered nursing qualifications as quickly as possible to permanently enter the NHS workforce.”