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Unvaccinated student nurses blocked from placements

New rules mean student nurses without Covid-19 jabs cannot fulfil graduation requirements

Student nurses in England will be barred from clinical placements required for graduation if they have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Guidance published by Health Education England (HEE) has confirmed that students on nursing courses must have had at least two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of March to join a placement. Student nurses must carry out clinical placements in order to graduate.

The guidance is in line with government rules for qualified nurses in England, who are legally required to have a Covid-19 vaccination unless they are medically exempt. Nurses who have not been vaccinated by 1 April will not be able to stay in NHS jobs.

“If you have not been vaccinated by 31 March 2022 you will not be able to undertake practice placements that require contact with patients or service users,” the guidance states. “This will affect your ability to complete your programme and join the professional register.”

Those students who have not had two doses by 31 March are advised to talk to their universities, which the HEE said “will be able to advise on your individual circumstances and what that means for you in relation to your programme of study”. Students must have had their first dose by 3 February to meet the deadline.

Legal requirement

In the guidance, HEE said that although it is the responsibility of students to make sure they get vaccinated, universities “should encourage the vaccination as part of their communications with students…and ascertain students’ vaccination status to enable clinical placement education to occur.”

HEE said that the Council of Deans of Health, which represents universities, is “looking at a number of issues” relating to the guidance.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Given the integral role NHS placements have for healthcare students the vaccine mandate de facto applies to all undertaking these courses at English universities. The Council of Deans of Health has been working to get clarity on all of the implications of this, engaging partners in the NHS, HEE and across government.

“We welcome the latest guidance but know some questions and issues will remain so we shall also undertaking work on best practice for our members as well as taking outstanding questions we cannot answer to the Government.”

HEE working to ‘support students’

Liz Fenton, deputy chief nurse at HEE, said the body is “working with the university sector to support students, raise awareness of the legislation and answer their questions”.

“We do appreciate people have differing personal circumstances so we are working with our colleagues across the education, health and care sectors to ensure that we are providing the right information and support so they can take action which is relevant to their situation,” she added.