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Stormont defends not paying student nurses during second Covid wave as work is part of their training

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Student nurses who were paid for helping the health service fight the first surge of coronavirus say they are being asked to put their lives at risk again - but this time for free

Student nurses who were paid for helping the health service fight the first surge of coronavirus say they are being asked to put their lives at risk again - but this time for free

Student nurses who were paid for helping the health service fight the first surge of coronavirus say they are being asked to put their lives at risk again - but this time for free

Officials have defended a decision not to pay students working in the health sector during the second wave of Covid.

Some students said they were left feeling undervalued, but the Department of Health said it was in line with other UK regions.

Students helped alleviate pressure on qualified nurses during the first peak earlier this year and their efforts were rewarded financially ­- but no payment is available this time.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has raised the issue with Health Minister Robin Swann.

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The Foyle representative compared the failure to reinstate the payment to the student nurses as "slave labour".

The Department of Health said: "It is a regulatory requirement that nursing and midwifery students complete 2,300 clinical placement hours to be able to join the Register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and take up employment across the HSC.

"Students have supernumerary status, which means they cannot be counted as part of the workforce when they are learning on placement in a clinical setting.

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Health Minister Robin Swann

Health Minister Robin Swann

Health Minister Robin Swann

"This helps ensure the integrity of their training is protected and is a regulatory requirement, set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

"During the first surge of Covid-19, emergency arrangements were set in place by the NMC to enable students to augment the paid workforce in response to the anticipated pressures.

"These emergency standards ended on September 30 and there are no plans to reinstate these arrangements at the present time. This is a UK-wide position."

The department said nursing and midwifery students here have a package of financial support that compares favourably with arrangements for nurse training in other parts of the UK and with other healthcare professions.

It added: "All have their tuition fees paid in full and receive an annual bursary. Individuals may be entitled to supplementary allowances according to personal circumstances."


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