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Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

8 January 2021

Requesting students and trainees once again adapt their training and education programmes for COVID-19 roles is a huge ask and, rightly, is a last resort for an NHS under extreme pressure.

There is absolutely no doubt that our learners make a huge contribution to health and social care whilst training. Last year, in their thousands, they impressively highlighted their passion and commitment by volunteering and working to support the response to the first phase of the pandemic.

As this current COVID-19 surge continues to put health and care services across the country under extreme pressure, in what has been described as the most difficult winter the NHS has ever had to face, once again emergency education standards have been put into place for final year nursing students.

The decision from the Nursing and Midwifery Council earlier this week, followed 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.

Whilst we hoped we would not need to take this action again, we have once again asked our third-year nursing students to opt-in and be part of the emergency response. Decisions regarding students and trainees in medical and allied health professions are also taking place in response to the extraordinary situation we find ourselves in; for example, pan-London rotations for doctors in training have now been paused for February 2021.

These aren’t decisions that have been taken lightly at all. Our role at HEE is to balance support for learners across all professions individually and collectively, be there when the NHS and social care needs us most and ensure a future pipeline of qualified clinicians with as little delay as possible.

Working together to do all we can to manage operational service pressures is critical, as is ensuring all students and learners are supported whichever year group, wherever they work, to continue to learn and develop as well as provide support to the NHS. We are especially pleased that the need for continued education and training was recognised by all partners in making this difficult decision.

There is no ‘one-size’ fits all position as the response to the pandemic varies from region to region, so over the coming days and weeks we will continue to work with all partners and learners to keep any disruption to a minimum.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures so we will support these emergency training and education standards and decisions, and then work with partners to ensure the measures we need to take now do not cost us the future workforce we need for patients over the coming years.


Best Wishes


Dr Navina Evans

Chief Executive

Health Education England

Posted by Dr Navina Evans

This Page was last updated on: 15 January 2021