Questions about working during the Coronavirus pandemic

Temporary registers are being developed for other healthcare professions. Is there a register for Healthcare Scientists?

The HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) has established a temporary register to receive final year trainees in a range of healthcare professions, including those on the Scientist Training Programme.

View further details about the HCPC COVID-19 temporary register for 3rd year STP trainees

 

Emails are circulating asking trainee healthcare scientists to volunteer at the Nightingale centre and to be upskilled to work on ICU. Are the school offering any guidance to the STP trainees on this front?

We are working closely with the Chief Scientific Officer’s office in NHS England to identify how the transferrable skills of healthcare scientists across our many specialties can be called upon so that healthcare scientists of all specialties can be upskilled and redeployed against the virus. 

More information on the redeployment of healthcare scientists 

Experiences gained whilst supporting the situation will undoubtedly contribute to scientist development. We are very aware that trainees in different years and different specialties are able to respond to the crisis differently. Healthcare scientists have a vital role to play and we’re aware that many existing staff want to offer their time and expertise to the Project Nightingale work

More information on Project Nightingale

What happens if Clinical staff are unable to deliver training or sign off competencies due to illness, self-isolation and /or commitments to clinical service? Will extensions be provided for Onefile submissions?

Training plans are designed to be flexible and this will especially be the case in the coming months. Once the impact of Covid-19 is better understood, we will be able to provide further guidance on how we can support trainees – we will aim to take a pragmatic view to ensure that trainees are not adversely affected, therefore we aren’t expecting trainees to have to take any further action in relation to their training imminently.

What is the policy for STP trainees if the UK were to be advised to work from home or under lockdown?

At the moment you should follow the advice provided by your individual employer. As you can imagine, there is no policy in relation to training during what is an unprecedented set of circumstances however we are working to develop some guidance to trainees as quickly as possible whilst also following government, PHE and HEE guidance.

It may be that trainees have to be flexible in their support of NHS services during this time whilst also maintaining their own personal and family safety so please adhere to your employer’s policies during this time.

Further information and guidance will be provided to trainees by the School via our website so please continue to visit this page on a regular basis for updates.

I am currently self-isolating but have concerns about returning to my workplace training. My department is currently seeing few patients and colleagues are doing general admin tasks – can I work from home and complete competencies/provide admin support from home?

Current Government advice is to work from home if possible unless you are a key worker – STP trainees are a varied group and it is not possible to be specific about which of these trainees are considered key workers – this will differ depending on year of training and possibly between specialties. HEE and the NSHCS are encouraging and supportive of all trainees to continue to contribute to services where they can, including supporting employers to redeploy trainees where it is safe to do so and where they can provide helpful support, or to work from home where risk assessment/workforce issues make this the best option. We advise you to discuss with your training officer as soon as possible as they are best placed to manage your individual circumstances. We are continually reviewing the situation and intend to provide regular updated guidance for our STP trainees in continuing to actively train where possible and to contribute to service where appropriate. We can only provide guidance within HEE and PHE policy and cannot override local employment policy or provide medical advice to trainees.

My doctor tells me that I need to self-isolate for 12 week. Will my Trust support me?

We understand that trainees have concerns regarding their own health and well being and any self-isolation requirements. Trainees are employees of their trusts and so should discuss their individual circumstances with their training officer/line manager who will have a duty of care to support their needs during this time. If trainees receive medical advice that they should be self isolating then this should be presented to the employer who should work within local employment policies to advise on the best approach for that individual. The School can only provide guidance within HEE, Government and PHE policy and cannot override local employment policy or provide medical advice to trainees. HEE is encouraging and is supportive of all trainees to continue to contribute to services where they can, including supporting employers to redeploy trainees where it is safe to do so and where they can provide helpful support, or to work from home where risk assessment/workforce issues make this the best option. We are continually reviewing the situation and intend to provide regular updated guidance for our STP trainees in continuing to actively train where possible and to contribute to service where appropriate. We are adding to our FAQ advice to training officers to consider trainee concerns and suggest that trainees should be supported to follow GPs advice, but it would be up to training officers and/or line managers to determine how to manage individual circumstances.

Questions about rotations

How are rotations being affected?

In this unprecedented and constantly changing situation, you should follow the advice provided by your individual employer.

First and second year trainees may find that it is not possible to continue with rotations. We understand this and if it is the case then trainees should liaise with training officers and would be expected to return to their home department.

Trainees should record changes to their training plans, the reason and consideration of potential mitigation.

More advice on how to complete the learning outcomes for the rotations will follow in due course, we anticipate that some of these could be accomplished by self-directed learning to ensure that trainees have the appropriate knowledge and understanding.

'100% completion of the rotation modules' - are these the 1st and 2nd year competencies? Or does this include our competencies for our specialism?

The rotation modules are listed in the Curriculum library under this tab for each specialism eg for Audiology would be SPS200, SP201, SP202 and SP203. These are the same modules that should be completed as a requirement for MRP, and do not include final year specialist competencies.

Are all rotations still necessary? Can they be shortened or deferred until later?

The current COVID-19 situation has highlighted the benefits of the rotation system within the STP – these include encouraging trainees to look outside of their specialty, make contacts in other departments, and gain an understanding of the work of other specialisms. Our advice at present is that rotations are still required, they can be shortened (advice prior to COVID-19 suggested 4 weeks minimum) or deferred but should still aim to cover the learning outcomes and competencies – please discuss with your training officer. Training plans are intended to be flexible, this is especially important at this time and we would encourage trainees and training officers to continue to meet regularly where possible to discuss any difficulties in training.

If rotations are deferred this will put added pressure onto the second year, how will we fit in the extra work? What if it clashes with HEI assessments?

We recognise that circumstances recently have been very different to normal and training has been disrupted in many areas. As circumstances return to normal completing your training is very important and we expect that trainees and training officers will need to look carefully at your training plan and be flexible to minimise any disruption, allowing trainees to catch up. Indeed, many training plans are structured to allow some time at the end of the programme to allow for any “slippage”. We would advise that you share your concerns with your training officer to see if you can come to a workable solution, perhaps organising the rotations at a different time or if you have had extra study time over the last few weeks you will be keen to do more hands-on tasks. HEIs are also working hard to try and ensure all year groups complete all of their assessments on time to prevent the added burden of a backlog of academic work.

There are particular aspects in my specialism that make the rotations even more difficult to complete, will this be taken into account? Can I get an extension?

As there is such diversity in availability of training at present between the different specialisms in the STP, we need to take some time to discuss the particular challenges trainees are likely to face.  We will consider with training officers and other healthcare scientists, to determine what we all think is best and fair for trainees, paying detailed attention to issues such as this. The School will take into account that some trainees may not have completed certain rotations/competencies by the end of year 1 and this is likely to be reflected in the MRP. We aim to support trainees to progress through the programme without blanket extensions, however all of our supporting policies including EEC (Extension due to Extenuating) continue to be available and will be considered in the usual manner.

I will find it difficult to complete all my rotations on time, will the MRP be deferred to allow time for these to be completed?

The MRP was designed to be a supportive review with a chance to flag up any barriers to progression, at a time point that enabled measures to be put in place for trainees to recover progress – this is likely to be especially important next year. It is unlikely to be deferred, but it will be an important tool for us to recognise if trainees are struggling due to the extra challenges being faced just now. We will take into account the challenges of this year in respect to rotations when reviewing the MRP submissions.

When things do get back to normal we expect to be extra busy with the backlog of work. My department expect me to reduce my study time to accommodate this and don’t want me to be out of the department for rotations.

The current COVID-19 situation has highlighted the benefits of the rotation system within the STP – these include encouraging trainees to look outside of their specialty, make contacts in other departments, and gain an understanding of the work of other specialisms. Our advice at present is that if rotations are difficult to complete, they can be shortened but should still aim to cover the learning outcomes and competencies. We recognise that circumstances recently have been very different to normal and we fully support trainees contributing to the increased workload, but as circumstances change completing your training is also very important. We would advise that you share your concerns with your training officer to see if you can come to a workable solution, perhaps organising the rotations at a different time or if you have had extra study time over the last few weeks you will be keen to do more hands-on tasks.

How can I complete my rotations it if the units are closed? Is there scope for departments to offer rotations via distance/online learning? Is there any support available from the school for this - i.e help with online learning/creating material/online assessments.

As the NHS moves into the next phase of Restoration and Recovery, we anticipate that many services will begin to operate again. This may allow rotations to begin again, but there may be significant variability between specialisms as to what can go ahead and what cannot. For departments that are not active, distance/online learning may be an option – this is something that the School can discuss with training officers to identify what modifications may be possible.

Questions about electives

How are electives being affected?

Whilst we consider these beneficial, they will NOT be mandatory for final year STPs due to finish in 2020.

If an Elective is not possible, trainees could use the time available to provide extra support to their departments by helping with routine tasks or to catch up on competencies or academic work if needed.

Questions about training

How will the cancellation of professional events and conferences affect training plans and the meeting of competencies for STP?

Training plans are designed to be flexible and this will especially be the case in the coming months. Trainees and training departments should attempt to rethink mapping to different opportunities to achieve the essential competencies if possible.

Questions about the academic aspect

How are deadlines being affected?

As we continue to review the situation, our discussions will now turn to completion deadlines and assessments, and obstacles to trainees’ ability to meet these.

Trainees should document changes to their training plans and rotations, we will continue to provide further information as soon as we can.

What will be the impact of COVID-19 on my workplace training and University lectures?

We recognise that in these exceptional circumstances, employers, trainees, trainers, departments and education providers may need to depart from established education and training procedures and arrangements including travel to, for example, universities or scheduled placements.

Individuals should follow guidance and information on rescheduling lectures/workshops provided by their HEIs together with that provided by the government by checking websites and emails regularly.

What will be the impact of STPs having to defer University modules or examinations due to Covid-19? If lectures remain cancelled for a number of weeks/months will the school help negotiate extensions with the Universities?

HEIs are implementing their own arrangements to manage the delivery of the programme within this academic year, including online teaching and assessment where appropriate and will notify trainees of any changes in the delivery and timing of lectures and assessments. We are working closely with all HEIs to avoid deferral of any aspects of the STP programme going forward if possible.

Once the impact of Covid-19 is better understood, we will be able to provide further guidance on how we can support trainees – we will aim to take a pragmatic view to ensure any impact is as minimal as possible, therefore we aren’t expecting trainees to have to take any further action in relation to their training imminently.

Will the MAHSE STP Research Day still go ahead?

MAHSE will be postponing the STP Research Day.

We appreciate that this would be disappointing for those of you who were planning to present at your first conference. MAHSE will be revisiting the STP Research Day and will communicate further at that time.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact admin@mahse.co.uk

I understand that applications for individual undergraduate and master’s student projects are not being accepted, as resources are being moved towards COVID-19 research. What should I do if I need approval?

The latest guidance can be accessed here.

We suggest that you approach your University for further advice and support on the next stages – tutors are likely to be best placed to offer guidance on how to approach and adapt projects to ensure they remain at the appropriate level or to advise on extensions should they become necessary.

Questions about the Independent Assessment of Clinical Competence

Will the IACC this year undergo quality assurance to ensure that the standard of assessment will not be compromised? As a recently HCPC registered clinical scientist, I am concerned that the change in mode of assessment may affect the standard and quality of trainee who pass the assessment.

The IACC will need to be assessed at the expected standard and level (L7) of the STP and will have the good practice assessment quality assurance process to follow such as verification and standardisation. Like the results of the OSFAs, there will be review of the IACC results data by division level Examination Boards each of which will include the Lead Station Writer of all relevant specialties as well as senior members of the School; the AHCS may choose to observe the board proceedings. The outcomes from the IACC will also be forwarded to the final ratification board for review and check for cross-specialty and cross-division consistency in arriving at the outcomes. The outcomes must be ratified by the Head of School prior to release to trainees. These QA layers are similar to those applied for the OSFA and ensure robust and reliable outcomes.

How is a critical reflection a comparable process to the OSFA? Students finishing this year may be seen as not equally qualified as a previously qualified trainees by employers.

The design of the IACC is a pragmatic and proportionate approach which recognises the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on trainees and training provision. It reflects the aim of the OSFA in providing an independent judgement of the trainee’s readiness to practise just as the OSFA determines fitness to practise through an assessment of practical skills. We think an exercise in gaining insight into their own readiness to practise that informs their behaviours when in role as a safe and competent Clinical Scientist will have great value to patients and employers. We suggest that trainees going through the present circumstances have shown themselves to be pretty resilient and willing to be versatile for the benefit of patients and their care during this time of great need, have in many cases stepped up to the plate and demonstrated their transferable skills in many different situations and ways. These are sought after attributes by employers as is employees’ insight and foresight into their scope of expertise gained through this assessment.

How was this assessment chosen for all specialisms as a replacement for the OSFA? Why couldn't OSFA be made virtual / provided the questions and submit responses

The format was chosen to recognise that trainees have experienced variable training provision and support in the last couple of months and will continue to do so over the next few months. It is they, with the help of their training officer who will know best their stage of development towards a Clinical Scientist role and be able to plan for their continuing development when in employment.

Before we even consider virtual OSFAs, we need to consider the OSFA methodology. The OSFA is standardised so trainees are likely to be disadvantaged if their training has been disrupted differently to their peers. With the IACC you are being asked to provide a response to the question – are you ready for practise? All trainees set the response in their own experience and development and go further by considering how they will face the challenge of dispensing their responsibilities safely when in practice.

Will the critical reflection narrative have to cover just the competencies/assessments not completed and passed on OneFile

The narrative should be seen as your demonstration to the assessor that you are ready to practise as a safe and competent Clinical Scientist. It should include your critical analysis and insight to your current stage of development and foresight on your continuing development needs in order to meet the challenge of your role as a Clinical Scientist.

How many questions in the critical reflections? or one long question?

There are no questions.  Trainees submission must be grounded in the 5 GSP domains and also provide a global statement, bringing the threads together to convince the assessor of their readiness to practise. The submission template that trainees must used will be structured in this way.

How many words will the critical reflection be? How long will have to write this?

The expectation is a minimum of 2500 words for a well thought out narrative but absolutely must not exceed 3500The submission window is from 29 June to 13 July so up until then.

Do the training officers have any involvement in the final critical reflective narrative?

Training officers should support their trainee in attaining the necessary insight and foresight through critical reflection to enable them to write the narrative – this is similar to supporting trainees in preparing for the OSFA.

Where can I find the IACC submission template?

We will be uploading the template to the resources section on the IACC webpage soon.

Will there be more than one assessor marking each reflection?

Only one assessor, independent  to the trainee, will mark each submission. They will be able to ask for the support of a specialist moderator if needed to help them with anything tricky. The Examination Board will review all outcomes data and confirm them as for an OSFA.

How is the new training for the assessors being resourced?

The School will review the assessment expertise in house and also across HEE to develop and deliver the training.  We will also ask our HEI partners for advice and guidance on marking written assignments.

How will the critical report be marked - Pass/fail?

Yes – pass or fail – similar to the OSFA

What happens if a third year trainee fails the critical reflection?

Trainees are eligible for two further attempts. There will be submission windows in October 2020, January and April 2021

Will the mock osfa results have a bearing if a trainee is borderline?

No, participating in the mock OSFA was not mandatory and for formative experience only.  As not all trainees attended and those who attended did so on a different basis, it would be unfair to use the mock OSFA results.

Which lead station writers have you approached?

We approached a representative group of LSWs across all of the HCS divisions plus Lead Healthcare Scientists.  We also conferred with the AHCS and HEE executive and obtained external expert assessment advice.

Questions about completion in 2020

Will there be an extension available for those trainees who through COVID will not be able to finish their training in the expected time?

HEE are taking an overall view of extensions of training for programmes across all professions.

We are still aiming for third year trainees to complete on time and are adapting the completion requirements to accommodate the impact of the pandemic.

The situation remains under review for years 1 and 2 however we continue to aim for trainees to be able to complete with the original timeframes. Should anything change or if there is any further information to share we will of course make sure that trainees and training officers are informed as soon as possible.

Trainees who have exceptional circumstances which are non covid related can continue to apply for extensions by following the EEC policy.

The 2020 live OSFAs have been cancelled - could you clarify whether by 'not postponed' this means that trainees will not be expected to take the live OSFAs in 2021?

Third year STP trainees will not be required to undertake a live OSFA in July 2020.

In place of the OSFA, trainees will be required to submit a written critical reflection on their clinical competence and readiness to practise, which outlines how their experience and learning to date demonstrate how they meet the standards set out in the Academy of Healthcare Science’s Good Scientific Practice.

Our current plan is that this piece of written work will be submitted by a point in mid-July. Trainees will be given advance notice of the precise requirements of the written assignment in May.

Trainees and their training officers will be provided with further and more detailed guidance about the alternative final assessment next week and beyond.

Our aim is to put in place a system that provides an opportunity for final year STP trainees to complete the STP programme at the usual time in a way that is fair and transparent. Our approach must ensure that Clinical Scientists joining the full HCPC register continue to be safe and fit to practice; without unduly adding to the pressures already faced by our Healthcare Scientist colleagues who will remain integral to STP assessment.

How will completion of the programme be affected?

Final year trainees are likely to be very concerned about how they will complete, particularly as the end to their funding approaches.

You can find more information about completion for STP Trainees due to COVID-19 Pandemic here

What if my Training Officer is not a HCPC registered scientist?

We have received a number of queries about the expectation that a declaration of the trainee’s scientific specialty competence will be required from an HCPC-registered scientist.

To allay some of the concerns we have received from trainees and training officers who have suggested that this might be problematic, we would like to provide this additional advice, which will be included in the full requirements when they are published.

Normally, the trainee’s training officer would be registered with the HCPC and attest to their trainee’s scientific specialty competence. Where this is not the case, we advise that the training officer attests to their trainee’s scientific specialty competence, citing their membership of their professional body and/or voluntary registration. This confirmation must then be ‘countersigned’ by an HCPC registered colleague within the employing Trust or organisation such as a Lead Healthcare Scientist. If necessary, we advise that trainee and training officer confer with colleagues in healthcare science departments within their Trust or organisation or ask advice from their HR department or Education and Training Lead to identify a colleague registered with the HCPC.

The signature of a registered Clinical Scientist is needed because the Scientist Training Programme confers eligibility for entry to the HCPC statutory register for Clinical Scientists.

Details of the mechanism for providing the sign off and, if necessary, countersignature will be published nearer the time of programme completion.

Should you need further advice on this or other aspects of programme completion, please contact us at the School at nshcs@hee.nhs.uk

Specialism specific questions

2nd Year Cardiac- Training has currently been put on hold. How are second year trainees expected to make a decision on which stream to specialise in if month of training have been missed out on.

Talk this through with your training officer – this will allow you to consider the options more fully. However, specialisms within the STP which allow a choice in routes in the final year are designed to provide appropriate underpinning knowledge and training prior to further sub-specialisation, and the decision to concentrate on either Echo or CRM for 1 year of the programme does not define your career going forward – it does not preclude training in the other specialty later on. Indeed, Cardiac Scientists with good skills in both area are likely to be much in demand with more options open to them. On completion of the programme you will get a certificate of completion from us in Cardiac Science so we will not make the distinction.

As transplants are almost entirely suspended, H&I trainees have also had their training paused. How will second years be expected to complete specialist modules?

As circumstances return more to normal completing your training is very important and we expect that trainees and training officers will need to look carefully at training plans and be flexible to minimise any disruption, allowing trainees to catch up. We would advise that you share your concerns with your training officer to see if you can come to a workable solution, perhaps organising aspects of training at a different time or if you have had extra study time over the last few weeks you will be keen to do more hands-on tasks. There may be scope to cover more of the core competencies or to work on your project literature review.  As there is such diversity in availability of training at present between the different specialisms in the STP, we need to take some time to discuss the particular challenges trainees are likely to face.  We will consider with training officers and other healthcare scientists, to determine what we all think is best and fair for trainees, paying detailed attention to issues such as .