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 24th 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.

FAQs for STP training officers

How can trainees be redeployed within our Trust?

Trainees in many departments may well be unable to continue with their training plans, particularly in areas which are patient facing or are under significant workforce pressures. Most trainees will, however, have transferable skills that could be used for other areas – these may include tasks involving patient confidentiality, clinical data input, importance of accuracy and QC, which could prove useful for example in labs and specimen receptions. Training officers may feel it appropriate to make that offer to their local labs. They might not need help yet, but may do in the coming weeks and it would be helpful for them to know that other STPs are willing to redeploy. Although not traditionally part of their rotation structure and if considered safe,  trainees would gain skills from the experience too and it could help them to feel a valued part of the NHS during this time.

As the Train the Trainer session in June has been cancelled, will this be rescheduled?

Our aim is to re-start our Train the Trainer programme later in the year, however we cannot confirm any dates at this time. In the meantime, we are putting together more online resources to support training officers. These will be available on the website soon.

Are trainees expected to come into Trusts at this time?

As STP trainees are all employees, the decision as to where and how they are asked to work at present will rest upon the Employer.  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 trainee as soon as possible as you are best placed to manage their individual circumstances. We are continually reviewing the situation and intend to provide regular updated guidance for our STP trainees and training officers 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 trainee has been told by their doctor that they need to self- isolate for 12 weeks- can the Trust support this? 

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 consider working from home (including working on competencies and self-directed learning) 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.

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.