Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
I want to thank all of the nursing and midwifery students across Wales who have supported our health and care services throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, the NMC introduced emergency education standards to allow more flexibility to be applied to the delivery of nursing and midwifery programmes. Those emergency standards were withdrawn in September 2020 and replaced with recovery standards to support students returning to their normal studies, while still allowing flexibility in the way programmes were delivered.
It was right that those students who “opted in” to deployment on a roster in clinical practice in 2020 would be paid for their work. Their contribution is hugely appreciated and we recognise the challenge this has been for students whilst also continuing with their education programmes.
We were clear from the outset that the arrangements associated with rostered deployed placements would need to come to an end at an appropriate point, to enable students to return to their normal studies. A return to being supernumerary and supervised while in clinical placements enables students to have every learning opportunity available to them in practice. In Wales we committed at the outset of this pandemic our priority to ensure emergency measures would not unduly affect students’ ability to complete their programmes. We know the programme disruption in 2020 has meant a delay in registration for some students.
The NMC on 14 January 2021 reintroduced optional emergency standards (external link) in response to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, which are available for use in each of the four UK countries. These arrangements include the option for first year nursing and midwifery students to focus on academic and online learning rather than participating in clinical placements; for final year nursing students to opt in and deploy to undertake paid clinical placements; and exceptionally, the same person may fulfil the role of practice supervisor and practice assessor.
Although there are severe challenges to health and care services due to ongoing pandemic conditions, there has been confirmation from service and workforce leads in Wales that student deployment is not required at this point in time. This decision will be kept under continuous review.
Key stakeholders in Wales have revised their arrangements to enable students to continue supernumerary placement learning opportunities and work towards completion of their programme requirements. Along with these key stakeholders, I have highlighted the importance of doing everything possible to continue to support students during practice placements.
On 15 January, the CNO and nurse director from HEIW wrote to all students to confirm the current position in Wales. The CNO and officials have responded to students who have raised concerns, including hosting a webinar (external link), and the updated the FAQs (external link) and supportive information for students on the HEIW website.