Guidance about elective requirements

The aim of the elective module is to develop personal professional practice and prepare for self-directed development.


The aim of the elective period is to facilitate a broader experience of healthcare and/or the practice of Healthcare Science in a cultural and/or clinical setting that is different from the usual training environment. We want to emphasise the great value of planning and completing the Elective module for all STP trainees.


Elective requirements and guidance

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.


Elective requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it challenging for trainees to plan and complete the experience, therefore we have outlined below the current elective requirements for each completion year.


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.


For trainees completing the programme in 2021 and 2022

Whilst the School recognises the elective beneficial to the training journey, it will not be mandatory to complete all elements in order to exit the programme in 2021 and 2022. Our response to the pandemic included agreeing with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) some flexibility in requirements for completion, but trainees 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 (ie those completing in 2022), 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 trainees completing the programme in 2023

For current year one trainees, who would not normally be planning the elective until the mid-to-late point of their second year, we do not expect elective options to be so restricted in the coming years and so would expect the requirement to complete an elective to be achievable. At present, we would encourage trainees to plan and organise their elective experience as it may be mandatory to complete the programme in 2023. However, the School will continue to monitor the pandemic situation, and we will update our 2023 completion criteria as required if the pandemic situation changes.

Last updated on 18th January 2024