Statement updated on 1st April 2020

Healthcare scientists of all specialties are playing a vital role in the battle against COVID-19. The testing of potential COVID-19 patients is being developed, assessed, performed and interpreted by healthcare scientists in life sciences. Physical scientists such as clinical engineers are working on the rapid deployment and configuration of additional ventilators and other newly acquired equipment. Physiological scientists, including critical care, cardiac and respiratory scientists are playing a vital role in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with COVID-19. We are hearing many stories of how scientists in adjacent specialties, such as medical physicists, who manage imaging and scanning equipment and services, working long hours to support their clinical engineering colleagues in the setting up of new and redeployed equipment.

Thank you all for the incredible work that you are doing at this very challenging time. We are aware that HSSTs have already been volunteering to redeploy to other clinical specialties in order to support essential services. The NSHCS is supportive of all trainees who are able to support their colleagues across the NHS at this time.

We are working closely with the Chief Scientific Officer’s office in NHSE to identify the transferable skills of healthcare scientists across the many specialties so that healthcare scientists can be upskilled and redeployed.


Statement updated on 26th March 2020

During the exceptional circumstances that we find ourselves in, your personal safety and that of patients and colleagues is paramount. HEE and the NSHCS recognises that clinical service delivery may demand your time and that of your workplace supervisor and others supporting your training.  We understand that this may result in your schedule for workplace based training and academic learning being affected.

We are in contact with MAHSE and understand that elements of the academic teaching are being offered online where possible and some assessments can also be completed remotely so you may be able to access these. It is possible for some HSST trainees that you may have the opportunity to gather unexpected evidence for the workplace-based requirements of this programme, if this is the case, we would encourage you to do so.

The NSHCS is supportive of HSST trainees who are able to continue training at this time while also realising that, for many of you, time for training is restricted or non-existent just now. This is a daily changing picture and we know that you will be managing your time to support the priorities that arise in your department and Trust.

The recent RCPath update also links to this NSHCS statement and FAQs.

Please continue to refer to responses to FAQs listed below for updates to help guide you.

FAQs for HSST trainees

What will be the impact of HSSTs having to defer University modules or FRCPath examinations due to Covid-19?

We will work closely with MAHSE to assist with the delivery of aspects of the HSST programme going forward.

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 to request extensions or changes to programme imminently.

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.

What is the situation with upcoming RCPath Examinations?

Please see the statement from the RCPath regarding the Spring 2020 examinations

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

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)