COVID-19: medical students requested to work in the NHS

Guidance for medical students on medical schools and trusts or boards offering the opportunity to take on contracts of employment in the NHS due to COVID-19.

Location: England Scotland Wales
Audience: Medical students
Last reviewed: 22 December 2021
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COVID vaccination programme

Read our guidance for GP practices on utilising medical students for the vaccination programme in England.

As part of action responding to the outbreak of Coronavirus, some medical schools and trusts/boards have offered medical students the opportunity to take on contracts of employment in the NHS.

We understand that, given the challenges the NHS is facing, many students will wish to support their medical colleagues.

If you have read the below and still require support, please email us at [email protected]


Working in the NHS

We believe that any students asked to undertake a role in the NHS should make the decision to undertake this work voluntarily. Under no circumstances should this be imposed, nor should you feel obligated or pressured to serve in order to meet medical school curricula.

Students must:

  • not be asked to work beyond your competencies
  • be adequately supervised where necessary
  • be provided with adequate personal protective equipment and full instruction in its use.

Students should also be able to withdraw from these roles at any point.


If you are already working

Students who have agreed to work under a specific set of terms and conditions.

Where this has been agreed, the BMA will continue to provide support and advice, and give you support to withdraw from that agreement if you wish.

If you are concerned about your contract offered, please do send it through to us and we may be able to offer advice.

Any role offered to students during the COVID-19 response effort, whether voluntary or remunerated, must be clear that it is term-limited and offered only for the duration of supporting responses to the crisis.



The below guidance concerns students who are taking up roles within the NHS which do not require provisional registration, and are employed under agenda for change T&Cs. These roles are likely to be:

  • healthcare assistants
  • turning team
  • porters
  • phlebotomists
  • clerks
  • medical student technicians
  • vaccinator

It is essential that you have the following:

  • an offer letter from your employer
  • a contract of employment
  • a role profile for the job you will be undertaking - due to being without provisional registration, it is crucial that you do not act outside of the specified duties of your role
  • the level of pay for the role and the relevant band within AfC (agenda for change)
  • your hours of work
  • certain contractual benefits (see below)
  • in Scotland, you will also need a letter of assurance from your university stating that this role will not adversely affect your medical education
  • in Wales, you will also need an appointment letter (see below), as well as the job description and contract of employment.

Before signing your employment contract, you should contact our contract checking service. This service will review your contract and point out any areas of concern/variation. If the contract checking service do identify areas of concern, then your case will be referred to a local employment advisor.

Unlike the national junior doctor contract, AfC contracts may be subject to local variation across employers.

In Scotland, if you wish to express an interest in such a role you can do so via NES’s COVID-19 accelerated recruitment portal.


Things to look out for when initially reviewing your position

A contract can be made up of more than one document but must include at least:

  • the trust’s or board's name
  • your name, job title or a description of work
  • your start date
  • if a previous job counts towards a period of continuous employment, the date the period started – it is unlikely that this would be applicable unless you have worked in the NHS previously
  • how much and how often you will get paid
  • whether you will be enrolled in the NHS pension scheme, and consequently have access to death in service benefits
  • your hours of work (and if you will have to work Sundays, nights or overtime)
  • holiday entitlement (and if that includes public holidays) - this must be the statutory minimum of 28 days (including public holidays)
  • where you will be working and if you are required to work at a different site
  • how long a temporary job is expected to last (although that might be extended given the current situation)
  • the end date of a fixed-term contract
  • what notice is required
  • details of any collective agreements
  • pension position
  • who to go to with a grievance
  • how to complain about how a grievance is handled
  • how to complain about a disciplinary or dismissal decision.


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What a written statement does not need to include

The written statement doesn’t need to cover the following (but these will be available on your employer’s intranet):

  • sick pay and procedures
  • disciplinary and dismissal procedures
  • grievance procedures
  • maternity and paternity leave.

It is important to establish from the beginning the scope of your employment, the duties you will be required to undertake and having certainty about who is responsible for your supervision.

Consider what training is to be provided and whether you feel competent to perform the duties. You should ensure that none of your duties require you to act outside of your current level of competency.

As students do not hold any form of registration with the GMC, you should never be asked to perform a duty which should be the responsibility of a doctor.

The student and employer must comply with the regulatory limits set out in the working time regulations.



You will not be required to arrange or fund your own clinical negligence indemnity cover.

Any clinical negligence claims will automatically be covered by the NHS via national schemes.

Medical graduates with provisional GMC registration are strongly advised to arrange their own professional indemnity cover with a medical defence organisation.

Medical students supporting the NHS in non-doctor roles are advised to hold medical student membership of a medical defence organisation, and to discuss with them what, if any, additional professional cover is necessary.


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