COVID-19: FAQs for STP trainees

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

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Questions about working during the pandemic

What should I do if I am redeployed?

We recognise that healthcare science trainees will be an important part of the response and recovery to the pandemic. However this should not be to the detriment of their training.

Trainees can be redeployed if there are benefits in relation to their ongoing learning and this can be incorporated into their training plans but we would not expect them to be redeployed for prolonged periods or into roles that do not enhance their learning and development.

Training should continue wherever possible so as not to disrupt the future workforce pipeline. If trainees are being asked to be redeployed or to take on service support roles that do not meet their learning objectives then please contact the School for further advice.

Is the HCPC temporary register for Healthcare Scientists open this year?

The School has received confirmation that the HCPC temporary register will not be re-opened this year. If this status changes in the future, we will inform trainees straight away.

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

You should follow the advice provided by the Government and 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.

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. 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.

Previous trainees had opportunities to do outreach and networking events (e.g. International, Day for Medical Physics, Keynote speeches, etc). Do we still have some of these opportunities and if so how will they be managed?

In view of the restrictions in place, many conferences and meetings are being redesigned to be virtual meetings. This offers a new opportunity for trainees to attend online, particularly opening up access to International conferences. Please discuss with your training officer to highlight any opportunities, keep an eye on the NSHCS and Professional Body websites and join your local Trainee Network to ensure you hear about these opportunities. HEIs usually host sessions for trainees to present their Research Projects, some of these are being hosted online and offer further opportunities to engage.

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 10 days, 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.

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Questions about rotations

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.

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.

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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 2021.

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.

I was redeployed, can I use this as my elective?

Yes, if you have been redeployed you can use this as your elective.

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Questions about training

What is the latest information about non-pay funding for educational training support?

Commissioners of the STP will allocate £2,000, per trainee, each academic year, for educational training support and supply to the individual employers via the agreed contractual arrangements. For HEE, this funding will be included in the Trust’s Learning Development Agreement (LDA), along with the salary support for trainees.

Under normal circumstances, the primary purpose of this funding is to contribute to the travel and accommodation expenses that a trainee will incur as part of the academic component of the programme. Due to the impact of the pandemic on delivery models of academic programmes, trainees and training departments should consider utilising the funding for other online learning resources relevant to their programmes,  for example attendance at virtual conferences, where that will enhance their learning.

Funding cannot at present, be utilised to fund specific elective modules or to procure IT equipment which should be provided to trainees by their employer to support any remote/home working requirements.

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. Trainees and training departments should attempt to rethink mapping to different opportunities to achieve the essential competencies if possible.

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Questions about the academic aspect

The University of Manchester have introduced an Assessment Pledge, which allows students the opportunity in the academic year 2020/21 to take two separate automatic extensions of 7 days. Will this extension also influence and add an extension to the official overall STP completion deadline in September?

No it will not. The automatic extension of 7 days offered by the University of Manchester for two individual academic assessment submissions does not not confer an automatic extension to the STP overall. The STP completion deadline is not changed as a result of the Manchester Pledge.

Will we get study days when we are working at the hospital, or is our studying expected to be done in the evenings and weekends?

Trainees are entitled to have 20% study time for if and when you need them. So that you do not disturb your work-based training, we encourage you to discuss your study time requirements with your training officer and plan your study needs in advance . We also encourage you not to use your study time when you do not need to study.

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.

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 is the current guidance on what I should do if I need approval?

In March 2020, the Health Research Authority (HRA) and devolved administrations announced their decision to stop reviewing applications for individual undergraduate and master’s student projects until further notice. This is still their position. However, this will not prevent anyone completing the Scientist Training Programme. Doing an HRA approved study is not a requirement of the STP and is not normally a requirement of an MSc. Whether HRA approval for a project is required is dependent on the nature of the project itself. A large proportion of STP trainees do projects that do not need HRA approval. All STPs will still be able to do an appropriate project.

The School met with the HRA to discuss the situation and the impact on STP trainees. Whilst STP projects may still be covered for HRA approval where they meet the exceptions stated on the HRA website these applications might still be subject to delay. If projects are approved, it cannot be guaranteed that NHS/HSC organisations will be able to support such studies, even if in-principle agreement was given prior to the HRA submission.

It is also worth noting that obtaining HRA and local R&D approval for a research project is only one potential delay for delivering a research project in the current climate. We recommend when planning any project careful thought is given to its deliverability. This would involve considering the potential impacts of current, or possible future, measures taken to control COVID-19.

The research project may span scientific or clinical research, translational research, operational and policy research, clinical education research, innovation, service development, service improvement or supporting professional service users to meet the expected learning outcomes. Examples of projects that may not require HRA approval include, but are not limited to, projects using analysis of patient or service level datasets where the data are properly anonymised, systematic reviews, scoping reviews and meta-analysis. We suggest that you agree your project with your University and hospital base supervisor – 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 and do not require HRA approval.

HRA decision tools may be helpful in informing these discussions:

HRA Decision tools – research
HRA Decision tools – ethics

Please also refer to the Curriculum Library for the overall aims of the research project.

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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 .

Last updated on 31st August 2021