COVID-19: STP trainee information

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


Latest statement

27th January 2022 – Non-Attendance to your Higher Education Institution

At present the Government guidelines are that all education establishments in England are open for teaching and learning. For Healthcare Science this means that the universities with whom we partner, are working within the government guidelines and will continue to support our trainees in the delivery of our programmes.  For some, this may be face to face, blended or online delivery – each university will advise as to how the academic programme will be delivered.

It is a requirement of the programme that trainees attend all timetabled sessions, regardless of the mode of delivery.  If due to a medical condition trainees are unable to attend timetabled sessions, they need to advise the university at the earliest opportunity and follow their processes for receiving an exemption to travel/attend where applicable.

2021 Statements

18th March – Redeployment of trainees

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.

15th February – Training during Covid-19 survey

In response to the training challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, last Spring we asked all trainees to complete a short questionnaire to allow us to better understand the disruption they faced. We would like to repeat this survey now to understand the challenges trainees are currently facing.

Understanding the variability in training disruption is essential to allow us to respond appropriately, adapting our numerous processes, including the MRP and completion, to ensure no trainees are inadvertently disadvantaged.

We appreciate you taking the time to fill in this survey.

9th February – HCPC temporary register will not re-open in 2021

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.

20th January – Statement about trainees administering the covid vaccine

We have been asked whether healthcare scientists can be asked to administer the Covid-19 vaccine.  The HEE position is that trainee healthcare scientists should not be taken out of training to deliver vaccinations.  They may choose to volunteer during their own time.

2020 Statements

11th December – Final assessment for STP trainees completing in 2021 announced

Earlier this month we met with Lead Station Writers and have agreed the format of the final assessment for STP trainees completing in 2021.

Your final assessment will consist of three parts:

  • a showcase of evidence from your e-portfolio.
  • a critical reflection supported by citations to evidence. This is likely to be submitted in June and not earlier.
  • an online panel interview comprised of more than one assessor from your specialty. This is likely to take place in July.

Further information and guidance about the final assessment will be released early in the new year.

7th December – Statement about elective requirements

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic the School has received a number of concerns and representations about the elective, particularly about:

  • the practicalities of completing the module when travel and social interaction are restricted
  • the difficulty of fitting in a six-week period away from the training centre when there are already significant time pressures on training caused by the pandemic
  • the possibility of shortening the elective or making it a non-mandatory element of the programme

Discussion in several forums has shown that there are varying understandings of the nature and purpose of the elective, and of the financial support available, and that this has led to an inconsistent experience among trainees.

The National School of Healthcare Science convened a task and finish group to discuss the Elective and identify some broad themes which should help trainees and training officers in planning this module. The following are the themes that emerged.

Aim and purpose

The aim of the elective module is to develop personal professional practice and prepare for self-directed development in the trainee’s future career as a Clinical Scientist, in which CPD will be a regulatory requirement.

There are no plans to remove the elective from the programme; in the next iteration of the curricula there will still be Learning Outcomes and competencies relating to the elective. These are mapped to Health and Care Professions Council Standards of Proficiency and are therefore still needed. However, they do not have to be met in a single block period of absence.

Duration and timing of elective

There is no mandated duration. The curriculum includes a suggested duration of four to six weeks but there is no mandated maximum or minimum.

A single period of elective training may be undertaken, but that must always be subject to discussion and negotiation between the training officer and trainee. Elective outcomes can also be met with a series of short experiences scattered throughout the programme; they do not necessarily require a break from training in the host department. These experiences could be as short as a day or two.

Elective training can be undertaken at any point of the programme, not necessarily (as usually happens) towards the end of the second year.

So, although there are no plans to make the elective a non-mandatory element, it is absolutely not a requirement that the trainee should be away from the training centre for an extended period.

There has never been a requirement (or indeed an expectation) that the elective should involve travel.

Nature of elective

The elective is individual to each trainee and there is no set form and content. It must be something broadly relevant to the trainee’s scientific, personal and professional development. The curriculum sets out the learning outcomes and competencies that must be achieved.

Each individual’s elective should be subject to discussion between training officer and trainee. The learning aims and the location and duration should be agreed and the training officer must be satisfied that the trainee’s proposal meets the aims of the module. The elective should not be used as a ‘reward’. Nor should it be declined without good education and training reasons. A training officer could, for example, decline to agree the trainee’s election plans if in his/her professional opinion those plans would threaten the trainee’s ability to complete the programme in time.

The elective outcomes can be achieved in any number of ways. They are equally achievable by experience in other services in the employing trust as by overseas travel.


HEE does not provide funding for the elective. Trainees are expected to self-fund any travel and accommodation they need, although they may find funding from other sources such as charities. The training allowance of £2000 per trainee provided by the HEE commissioners is not intended to fund the elective.

During the current exceptional circumstances

Trainees who completed the programme in 2020 were given the flexibility to omit the elective. The Health and Care Professions Council, which regulates the profession of Clinical Scientist, recognised the need for this flexibility in view of the difficulties caused by the pandemic. Trainees who entered their final year in 2020 and will complete in 2021 will also have this flexibility but should ensure that, where possible, they complete as many of the programme learning outcomes as they can (including the learning outcomes connected with the elective if possible).

For current second years, although you may opt not to take the full length of elective specified in the programme, you should as a minimum be able to show evidence of your discussions with your training officer about what would be reasonable and feasible in current circumstances. You should do what you can to address the elective-related competencies and ensure that there is evidence of your reflection on OneFile. For current year one trainees, who would not normally be planning the elective until the mid-to-late point of their second year, we will review the position in 12 months’ time. In principle, year one trainees should not find their elective options so restricted in the coming years.

6th November – Update on research projects and the Health Research Authority

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:

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

2nd November – Update on STP final assessment

The National School in HEE, like other education and government institutions, continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on its responsibilities and in particular on the training of, and completion by, current 3rd year STP trainees.

In light of the continued difficulties involved in running face-to-face events, and also to progress with potential assessment innovations suggested by senior scientists and assessment experts during an OSFA Visioning day held in January 2020, we would like to provide you with an update on the format of the STP final assessment for 2021.

1) The 2021 mock OSFA and summer OSFA assessment events have been cancelled.

2) Currently, Education and Assessment experts in the National School and in HEE are working on the design of an alternative STP final assessment for trainees scheduled to complete in 2021. This will retain the successful elements of the IACC. Further details will be released in December pending HEE, HCPC and national senior scientific colleagues’ approval.

30th September – Rotational assessments and competencies

Rotations are an important element of the STP with many benefits for your development as a Clinical Scientist. These include making contacts with colleagues in other departments, gaining an understanding of the work of other specialties and making yourself and your specialty visible to others. Indeed, the importance of experience gained through rotations has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in allowing Healthcare Scientists to redeploy from their own specialty to support other areas using their transferable skills.

Trainees should aim to complete their rotations and completion remains an important indicator of progression for MRP (Midterm Review of Progression); however, we understand that rotations have been difficult to arrange recently due to the constraints placed upon us of COVID-19 and outcomes from the MRP for the current year 2 cohort will reflect this.

We accept that flexibility in timing and length of rotations is necessary. Training plans will be absolutely key to managing training at this time. We advise that trainees and training officers meet regularly so training goals can be reviewed and flexed according to access to provision that is possible at any time and contingencies can be considered in order that a suitable level of programme progression is maintained. This may entail amending plans for rotation and specialist training and alternative and innovative ways of carrying out assessments.

Alternative resources and ways to complete the rotation module assessments and competencies are suggested below.

The following points are to be noted

  1. Training officers should NOT sign any competencies if the developmental evidence is not appropriate.
  2. Training officers should only sign off competencies that are part of their own specialty and scope of practice e.g. a training officer in genomics is not able to sign off histology rotational competencies unless they are qualified in histology.

Resources and alternative ways of completing the requirements of your rotation modules may include

  • Verified online courses
  • Virtual meetings and/or teaching sessions with colleagues from rotation departments
  • Virtual teaching sessions provided by or facilitated by Industry partners
  • Virtual conferences organised by Professional Bodies

Trainees should still find opportunities to spend some time in the rotational department to make connections, understand the work of the specialty and complete competencies that cannot be fulfilled by taking the online course.

Further guidance

  • The identified online session(s) must first be mapped to a relevant module’s learning outcomes, discussed and agreed with your training officer.
  • Training officers should only accept outputs from the online content as evidence if they fulfil the rotation module’s learning outcomes.
  • Be mindful that online content cannot fulfil work-based competencies that require the trainee to perform a practical task e.g. ‘Observe’, ‘Fit’, and ‘Perform’ a task.

2nd September – HCPC Temporary Register to remain open to end of November 2020

We have discussed with the HCPC the proposed closure of the temporary register for Clinical Scientists and Biomedical Scientists. We are pleased to inform you that the HCPC have agreed to extend the register to end of November 2020.

The HCPC should also be contacting registrants directly but we wanted to make you aware that this agreement has been reached as soon as possible.

18th August – Understanding the impact of the pandemic survey request

Here at the School we want to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the education and training of year 1 and 2 STP trainees and training officers. To help us determine the impact, we would be grateful if you could complete a brief survey. The information you provide will enable us to explore whether any adjustments to training outputs are needed.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this short survey. The deadline for completion of the survey is Monday 31st August 2020.

Survey for STP trainees – Years 1 and 2

17th August – Trainees completing in 2021 will not have to complete the elective module

Because of Covid-19, completion of the elective module was not mandatory this year as part of portfolio completion for 2019/20 final year trainees.

Due to the continuing impact of Covid-19 on training provision, this flexibility has been extended to 2020/2020 final year trainees. Completion of the elective module will not be a mandatory portfolio requirement for year 2 trainees progressing to their third year on programme in September 2020.
The full set of programme completion criteria for 2020/21 will be published when final and approved, however, we thought it would be helpful to let trainees know about the status of the elective module as many are considering the planning for this module now.

7th July – Joint statement from School and HEI about study time

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.

22nd June – Statement for 1st and 2nd year trainees

Thank you for your continued patience whilst we work through the many issues raised around STP training due to COVID-19. Please be assured that we are very aware that your training has been disrupted, to varying degrees dependent on Specialty and training department, and we appreciate that this is causing anxiety.

We are communicating with training officers and trainees to try and ensure we have as much information about the situation in various departments as possible, with a view to providing more specialty-specific guidance about how to move training forward, and to address any gaps. We are organising and supporting a number of events including a Trainee Representative Group meeting, and a modified Themed Board session, all of which will allow us to collect information from those involved in your training and yourselves. You may have received a communication from your trainee representative already to collect your experiences, or you can email the School directly if you have concerns (or examples of good practice) that you wish to raise.

In the meantime, we are advocating flexibility, particularly of the rotations, with these being shortened or delayed if necessary, and with simulation and virtual training being used where appropriate. We are supportive of departments re-arranging training plans where required and are pleased to see that this is already part of many training officers’ response to the challenges faced.

We will continue to monitor and respond to the situation and are intending to provide advice and guidance regarding 2nd and 1st year training soon.

3rd June – Working from home provisions

If you are working from home at the instruction of your employer, your Trust should provide you with the equipment you need to continue your training. This should not continue indefinitely and you should be returning to the workplace as soon as possible subject to risk assessment. Your training should be continuing even if it is different as a result of the changes arising from Covid-19.

Trainees are employed members of staff on an equal footing with other employees. The Learning Development Agreement (LDA) signed by the Trust at the point a training place is assigned, and the accreditation to train awarded by the National School of Healthcare Science, requires the resources required to deliver the workplace based training are provided. This should include any IT equipment normally needed for the role.

11th May – Working in collaboration with the universities

We know you are worried and dealing with the impact of covid-19 on your education, training and personal lives. The National School working in collaboration with the universities, want to reassure you that our unified aim is to support you to continue your training; to complete your portfolio, clinical and academic work; and enable you to complete your training programme within the planned timeframe, and continue with your professional career. We understand that covid-19 has had an impact across all years of training and the school and the universities are working to ensure that no one is disadvantaged as a result. The arrangements universities are putting in place are with the agreement of the National School. Although in the first instance we have had to focus on the processes to support completing trainees and admission to the programmes in 2020, we are thinking about all of you at an earlier stage in your training, and how best to support you going forward.

The National School is in frequent contact with the HEIs, and the work of accrediting workplace training providers and supporting trainees who come to us with issues or concerns continues.

Please continue to review the usual communications from the universities and the School on our websites, by email and social media, for regular updates and information about joint webinars and Q & A sessions.

These are certainly unprecedented times and everyone is having to adapt at a pace and scale we have not previously seen in clinical and academic services. We want to thank all STP and HSST trainees for your professionalism and resilience, the very characteristics of clinical scientists.

30th March – Healthcare scientists playing a vital role

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. 

20th March – Trainees should continue in their current workplace

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.

20th March – STP Trainees COVID-19 survey

In these unprecedented times we at the National School want to understand the many different concerns you have about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your education and training, on your future plans and on you personally.

Therefore, we want to reach out to you to find out more about your experience and your concerns. The information you provide will enable us to explore extra support the School can offer at this time.


FAQs for STP trainees

Take a look through the frequently asked questions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Last updated on 8th March 2022