Latest statements

Statement updated on 30th March 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 developed, assessed, performed and interpreted by healthcare scientists. Scientists such as clinical engineers are working flat out 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.  

In response to the need for significantly more clinical scientists to be available to the NHS over the next few months we are supporting efforts to allow final year trainees to progress into service as soon as possible. We are working with the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) to swiftly establish a method that will enable final year clinical science trainees to be placed on a temporary register in order to progress into positions in service. 

We are hearing many stories of how scientists in adjacent specialties, such as medical physicists, who manage imaging and scanning equipment and services, are working long hours to support their clinical engineering colleagues in the setting up of new and redeployed equipment. Healthcare science apprentices have made changes in their roles to work beyond their current contracts in sterile services to support decontamination in laboratories. 

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


Statement updated on 20th March 2020

HEE and the NSHCS understands and values the significant contribution that all HCS STP colleagues, trainees and training officers, make to the delivery of care for patients. In these exceptional circumstances, we all recognise that significant changes may need to be made to planned training, including novel methods for delivery of academic material and disruption to rotational placements. We wish to reassure you all that the unique nature of current circumstances will be taken into account when assessing progress against curricula during this time.

The NSHCS is reviewing processes in training programme management to minimise risk across all aspects, from recruitment to assessment and completion and to mitigate against any negative impact on trainees’ progression. If learning opportunities to gain required competences are frustrated by events e.g. an exam or mandatory course is cancelled. We will be continuously liaising with Employers, HEIs, and other stakeholders and will provide regular updates as the situation changes.

STP trainees are embedded in departments and are Trust employees – we expect that they should continue in their current workplace unless managers and supervisors are unable through staffing absence or risk assessment to support them. If either of these (or another reason) is the case, then consideration should be made by the Trust employing department to re-deploy these staff to support other clinical activity elsewhere or if this is not appropriate then to look at allocating additional study time. Many HEIs are providing learning online and trainees could use this time to access this and to meet learning outcomes through self-directed learning where possible.

We would like to offer the following guidance regarding common questions from trainees, and for further information, please refer to the STP FAQs below.

HCPC COVID-19 temporary register

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

Electives

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.

Rotations

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. 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.

Deadlines

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 and will provide a formal update about the OSFAs on Monday 23 March.

FAQs for STP trainees

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

In response to the need for significantly more clinical scientists to be available to the NHS over the next few months we are supporting efforts to allow final year trainees to progress into service as soon as possible. We are working with the Academy for Heathcare Science (AHCS) to swiftly establish a method that will enable final year clinical science trainees to apply to be placed on a temporary register. Details will be published on our website as soon as possible.

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. This information will be available very soon, and we will publish links to this as soon as they become available. Redeployment may be required within trainees’ own Trusts, but many London-based trainees are volunteering to support the Nightingale project now by offering their skills. The NSHCS supports redeployment of trainees, but it is essential that trainees discuss with their employers before doing this. 

During this exceptional time, we expect that many trainees will divert from their training plans. These are intended to be flexible and we would ask trainees not to worry too much about competencies that they are not managing to complete at this time if they are redirecting their efforts towards redeployment. 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, and we will consider this very carefully in our discussions around how we can ensure that final year trainees are able to complete the programme fairly and safely, and when considering progression for other years.  

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.

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.

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.

How are rotations and electives being affected?

We understand that some centres have introduced a ban on Public/Patient Involvement and staff travelling to other NHS sites to prevent cross spread between NHS staff. This is impacting on some trainees being able to finish a rotation and move to another and may necessitate postponement or cancellation of Elective plans.

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

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. Trainees may be asked to cover service in areas in which they have been deemed competent.

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

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.

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.

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?

We are currently reviewing all options to allow STP trainees to complete the programme in a way that offers a fair, transparent process ensuring that graduates are safe and fit to practice, at the same time not adding to the pressures already faced by our Healthcare Scientist colleagues. Our aim is to put in place a system that allows completion to happen at the usual time and it is very unlikely that we would ask successful trainees to sit their OSFA next year, but as yet, we have not fully agreed the process. We will of course update as soon as we can, please look out for further emails and announcements on our website and by Twitter.

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.

COVID-19 may impact on trainees’ ability to sit the OSFA, and in this unprecedented set of circumstances we are working to develop some guidance to trainees as quickly as possible whilst also following government, PHE and HEE guidance.

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.

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.

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.

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