Council of Deans of Health position on Coronavirus (Covid-19)

11 March 2020

The current novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak presents a significant challenge for the entire world.

Covid-19 is already affecting the delivery of healthcare programmes in universities across the UK. Universities have already updated their business continuity plans in light of Covid-19 and are ready to support their students and staff following government advice and scientific evidence.

The Council of Deans of Health, as the representative body of healthcare faculties in the UK, is supporting Government and its members during this time. Universities are committed to their civic mission of supporting the NHS and the public, working collaboratively with their NHS, social care and independent sector partners in their regions.

Over the coming months we will work with Government and member universities to deal with the impact of this virus on healthcare education and the higher education sector. Our priority right now is to ensure that the NHS and care sector has the support it needs to care for patients.

We are looking to the NHS to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of our students are clear and that everyone engaged in patient care has the support and supervision they need. If students choose to work as healthcare assistants during this period they will need clarity on status, employment and indemnity arrangements.

Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, Chair of the Council of Deans of Health, said:

“In these exceptional circumstances, we are confident in the quality of our higher education healthcare students and their skills and abilities in working with the NHS to support the health and care sector. Students nearing the end of their course will have gained a great deal of clinical experience during their studies and, with the support of employers, will have the option to work in a different role in a time of crisis.”

“However, it is imperative that there is clarity on the roles they will be asked to perform and assurance they will be working within their competencies. Universities will also have a responsibility to monitor the impact on education, and will look for clarity from the regulators, not only around how they compensate for the loss of practice hours and teaching time but also how the additional experience they will have gained is recognised”.

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

“The UK’s universities play a crucial role in the nation’s health and wellbeing – from training the next generation of health professionals to the life-saving research carried out in our laboratories – and we are committed to supporting the national effort to protect and serve the public and local communities during these unprecedented times”.

Katerina Kolyva, Executive Director of the Council said:

“Never has collaboration between universities, the NHS and regulators been more important. Universities will continue to make local arrangements with clinical partners but clear UK-wide arrangements and guidance is absolutely vital to provide a framework for these arrangements”.


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