COVID-19: HSST trainee information

Information for HSST trainees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Latest statement

Statement updated on 7th July 2020

Joint statement from the School and Universities about study time for trainees

The National School of Healthcare Science, in collaboration with colleagues at all STP and HSST provider universities, would like to clarify the position for 2020/21 in relation to study time for trainees.

Preparations are under way for the start of the next academic year and there may be changes to the way teaching is delivered by the universities, at least initially. Each university will inform its own students how their programme will be delivered.

Where teaching is delivered online rather than face to face, the amount of time dedicated to study should be the same as for previous cohorts of trainees. Trainees this year will need the same number of hours released for study as they would have had for the face to face teaching.

In addition to this, trainees will still need 20% of their time as protected private study time throughout the programme.

It is a requirement of the programme that all trainees engage with the prescribed learning and that employers respect the trainee’s supernumerary status and ensure study time is provided. At the beginning of the programme, as soon as the teaching arrangements are known, trainees and training officers should agree between them how sufficient time will be allocated for study.

FAQs for HSST trainees

If we have a non-covid related training difficulties, who do we contact for help and advice?

Please email regarding any training difficulties and this will be forwarded to the relevant team

Will the NSHCS be open to further interruptions to training if our departments become overwhelmed with future coved-19 difficulties?

Yes, the COVID Interruption form on OneFile can be submitted more than once to allow for this. If you have making a further request, please indicate on the form that you already hold an improved interruption to assist with linking these requests.

Can we apply for further extensions if we didn't ask for 6 months and find that COVID delays us even more further down the line?

Yes, the COVID Interruption form on OneFile can be submitted more than once to allow for this. If you have making a further request, please indicate on the form that you already hold an improved interruption to assist with linking these requests.

Do we need to use the onefile interruption form for non-covid related reasons for interruptions?

The OneFile form is only for COVID-related interruptions. For all other reasons please use the usual ECC process and application form to request:

How will the cancellation of professional events and conferences affect training plans and the meeting of Standards of Proficiency for HSST?

Training plans are designed to be flexible and this will especially be the case during the coming months. The AHCS advises that their ‘standards are designed to be flexible and to provide a framework for decision making in a wide range of situations’.

Please refer to AHCS site for further updates on Standards of Proficiency

I'm first year HSST, and not sure about annual progression interviews/dates. I'm also concerned that a lot of competencies I had planned have not manifested due to COVID (e.g. conference presentations etc) and how this may affect annual progression

The ARP is a supportive process which will take into account the impact of COVID on training and the ability to meeting Standards of Proficiency. Some Standards of Proficiencies may be met naturally by the additional or different work being carried out at this time, so please review your training plan to identify these alternatives. Also many planned conferences may be moving online for later in the year, so may still be some opportunities to participate in these.

Can I still apply to sit the IAPS assessment in December if I am delayed with submitting my thesis due to COVID-19?

Yes, we will be accepting applications to IAPS under exceptional arrangements due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. In order to apply for IAPS you will need to have all Standards of Proficiency signed off and would need to ensure that you are properly prepared for the IAPS prior to requesting a sitting in December.

Can we still take the final HSST exam up to one year after our new extended deadline? Would we still be able to take or resit outside the original 6 years?

There is a 12 month unfunded window post your completion date of HSST to submit all of your completion evidence, including academic certificates and evidence of having completed your professional assessments. If it is likely that due to COVID-19 you will not be able to complete all of the elements of HSST within this timeframe, please consider applying for an interruption to your programme to allow for this.

What is the situation with upcoming RCPath Examinations?

There will be no RCPath examinations taking place before September 2020, where feasible the Spring and Autumn sittings of examinations will be combined; in specialties where an examination is normally only run in the Spring session this will be accommodated in Autumn 2020. At Part 2 in the larger specialties there may be a further Autumn date in January 2021 to accommodate as many candidates as possible. The January examination would be an extension of the Autumn sitting and not an additional session in its own right.

The RCPath will aim to give candidates at least 12 weeks’ notice of examination dates – some of these are already available the RCPath website but may be subject to change. In smaller specialties this level of notice may not be possible for logistical reasons but will take place within the advised examination period.

Arrangements for the examination, once confirmed, will be made available on the RCPath website.

Applications for the Autumn 2020 examination session will open the week commencing 11 May until Friday 3 July.

The RCPath have devised a short survey for you to complete which can be found here. They would be grateful if you could complete this no later than Sunday 10 May. It should take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete and the aim of this survey is to gauge numbers for upcoming examinations to aid planning.

They will also be collecting information regarding your examination preparation to ascertain the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on both this and training.

What is the situation with Section A modules?

We also are aware that Section A modules have been converted to be delivered remotely, deadlines have been greatly relaxed and  those trainees able to continue have been offered the opportunity to do so, but also made clear they can the defer the modules until next year.

Manchester University have recently announced majority of teaching in the next academic year will be given on-line - will this apply to the PGDip?

Please see the upcoming joint MAHSE/RCPath/NSHCS webinar for more details regarding the provision of the academic component of HSST

At what point will we hear from the university about re-starting our research project?

The decision about restarting your research project is based on your own availability, and your department and trusts capacity to support research at this time. If you are able to continue with your research, you should inform your Academic Supervisor and Programme Director at the University

Covid has resulted in research patients not returning to hospital for follow up which means I have limited follow up data for my thesis. How well received will a thesis write up be if it has only limited data for interpretation?

It is likely that many projects will be changed due to the impact of COVID, which is understood by the Universities and NSHCS. The project aims and objectives can be changed, although the project and thesis will still need to meet the Level 8 academic requirements for the University. It is important to discuss any changes with your Academic Supervisor and Programme Director at the University to determine this.

Do you have an update on the HRA position on non-covid research projects for both HSST and STP?

The NSHCS met with the HRA on 05/06/2020 to clarify the situation with non-covid related projects. It was confirmed that doctoral level projects are exempt from the current pause in applications and therefore HSST research projects are eligible for HRA approval. It is important to discuss with your Trust R&D team regarding their current capacity to support non-covid related projects.

I was planning on using my PhD for the written component as I am doing the EIP rather than the full C2 project. However, it says in the guidelines it will only be accepted if in a relevant subject and within a timely manner (quoted as within 10 years) - due to cancelled FRCPath exams - will there be any leniency in this now in terms of the timely manner part?

The NSHCS states that previous PhDs need to be relevant and timely (usually within 10 years), however we will endeavor to be flexible to account for the impact of COVID-19. You can apply for a C2 exemption from the school as soon as you start the HSST programme. You will also need to contact the RCPath to confirm if your PhD will be acceptable as the Part 2 written component.

Can I redeploy to other clinical/specialist areas if required?

The NSHCS would support the re-deployment of HSSTs to assist with essential services in your trust if you and your department have the capacity to do so. Any re-deployment should follow local guidance and these principles:

  • you shouldn’t be asked to carry out any activities beyond your level of competence
  • you should receive appropriate induction and supervision if you’re deployed to a different clinical area
  • interruptions to your training should be recorded on your training plan and considered during your Annual Review of Progression (ARP)
  • During the current situation we do not require trainees to submit requests to allow redeployment or extensions to training

Can you tell us more about the AHCS HSS register that we were recently told about?

Following completion of the HSST programme and receipt of the HSST certificate, individuals are eligible to join the AHCS HSSR Register. Once on the register you will be able to use the title ‘Fellow of the Academy for Healthcare Science’ for the period that you are on the register. Please see for more infomation