UNISON supports nursing students who want to join the pandemic fight

Final year nursing students will be safely supported if they want to join the fight against coronavirus, thanks to UNISON negotiators.

The government announced plans last week to allow nursing students to spend the final six months of their course on clinical placement. UNISON quickly surveyed hundreds of students to get their views.

Most said they would join a temporary register to help on the frontline but had understandable concerns about what it would mean for their qualifications and future registration.

Students will still be entitled to supervision and work under a specific framework of tasks. The emergency register will include a clear code of practice for student members.

They will also be paid for their work – although unions are still discussing the exact rates – and will be allowed to return to their education if they don’t feel ready to join the full nursing register after six months.

We’ve also asked for commitments that any student who does not feel comfortable joining the response will not be disadvantaged. However, as the NHS will be limited in the placements it can provide, it is likely registration will be delayed.

Welcoming the news, UNISON Eastern head of health Sasha Savage said: “Mobilising our NHS workforce is going to be key in tackling this pandemic and we’re glad ministers have been listening to unions in how to do this.

“Many student nurses across the East of England want to make their skills available at this time of exceptional need. But in a way that’s as safe as possible for them and patients – and doesn’t imperil the future of the NHS.

“It’s also important that those who don’t feel ready to join the front line will not be forced to do so.”

UNISON is continuing to push for tuition fees to be abolished or suspended, as the coronavirus outbreak has shown how important it is to get more people to take on a nursing education.

Students with concerns about their placements should raise these with their universities and managers in the first instance but reps and branches will provide as much support as they can.

Coronavirus – your rights at work