NMC updates approach to supporting nursing and midwifery education amid the Covid-19 pandemic

Published on 14 January 2021

Find out about changes to our emergency education standards

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has today announced it will reintroduce emergency education standards to enable final year nursing students to opt-in to support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, via extended clinical placement.

This decision follows a request from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, supported by the Chief Executive of the NHS in England, in response to the continuing, intense pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The NMC has also introduced two additional emergency standards relating to first year nursing and midwifery students and supervision and assessment in practice. This follows feedback from the health and care service and education providers.

This package of measures will mean education organisations across all four countries of the UK are being provided with as much flexibility as possible in how they deliver their courses, while also allowing those final year students who want to support the response to the pandemic to be able to do so.

As a UK regulator, these emergency standards are available to use in each country but are not mandatory for any individual country, region, institution or student.
The emergency standards will enable the following:

1. For nursing students in their final year: Where these standards are adopted locally, students can opt in to a paid clinical placement while the standards are in place. Universities will need to work with students to make sure they've met all necessary requirements and learning outcomes to join the NMC register.

2. For nursing and midwifery students in their first year: While the preference is for first year students to continue with their practice placements, this may not be possible in some regions of the UK. The NMC has therefore reinstated the emergency standard which enables first year nursing and midwifery students to focus on academic and online learning rather than participating in clinical placements while the system is under pressure due to the pandemic.

3. For all other undergraduate nursing and midwifery students and post-graduate diploma/masters students: This group will continue with their studies as planned and the emergency education standards allowing extended clinical placements will not apply to these programmes. These students on placements will continue to have supernumerary status.

Universities will be able to decide how they wish to use the options set out in the standards, depending on the preferences and safety of their students and the needs of their local health and care services.

Local health and care services will also develop guidance for employers, registered professionals and students tailored to local circumstances in each of the four countries of the UK, including any decisions on pay for students working in clinical practice.

Health and care services will also be responsible for ensuring that all students on placement have access to appropriate personal protective equipment. And given what is known about the impact of Covid-19 on people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, for ensuring that appropriate risk assessments are carried out.

These decisions have been taken following careful consideration by the NMC and after listening to the views of the UK's four Chief Nursing Offices, the Council of Deans of Health and other partners.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar for the NMC, said:

"Today's students are tomorrow's registered nurses and midwives and it's vital we support them to complete their education. But we recognise the health and care services in the UK are under unprecedented strain.

"The changes we've made today will enable students to continue learning, while at the same time, allowing those student nurses in their final year to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 where they wish to do so.

"I'm enormously grateful to each and every student for coping with such change and disruption to their studies at this challenging time. Their dedication and hard work fills me with enormous pride and hope for the future.

"I look forward to welcoming them onto our permanent register as registered professionals in the months and years to come."


Further background

1. More information about these changes can be found here and the full statement is available here.
2. At the start of the pandemic, the NMC introduced emergency education standards to provide universities with flexibility in how they delivered nursing and midwifery courses and to enabled students to work on the frontline via paid clinical placements. These were withdrawn in September 2020, replaced with recovery standards to support students to return to more normal studies.
3. Supernumerary status: Students in practice or work-placed learning must be supported to learn and practise skills safely. In order to have the student at the centre of learning, we specify that students must have some form of supported or protected learning time. For nurses, and midwives this means that students must be considered 'supernumerary', meaning that they are not counted as part of the staffing required for safe and effective care in that setting. We do not require nursing associate students to be supernumerary while learning in practice, but the student must have 'protected learning time'.

For further media enquiries, please contact the NMC press office: media@nmc-uk.org

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