COVID-19: staff redeployment

Our guidance gives an overview of redeployment for employed doctors, including giving your consent, training, terms and conditions, raising concerns and your wellbeing.

Location: England
Audience: All doctors
Last reviewed: 22 December 2021
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GP partners should read the BMA’s guidance on redeploying staff, working in hubs and furlough, which is in our toolkit for GPs and GP practices.


Agreeing to redeployment

At an earlier stage of the COVID-19 response, it was common for staff or students to be asked to act outside of their normal role. You may have been or may be asked to temporarily work in a different or unfamiliar care setting to support the ongoing pandemic response.

Unless your contract expressly states otherwise, your employer cannot redeploy you without consulting and reaching an agreement with you first. This is confirmed in NHS England and NHS Improvement’s advice on acute sector workforce models during COVID-19. The NHS staff council have also issued guidance which confirms that redeployment for NHS staff is voluntary.

For junior doctors, where a proposed redeployment would result in a change in your educational environment, then we would expect this proposal to have been approved by the postgraduate dean. This in accordance with the joint guidance from the four statutory education bodies.

We recommend that you follow existing procedures relating to risk assessments, job planning and work scheduling with your employer in mutually agreeing whether or not it is safe and appropriate for you to be redeployed.

If you are considering a redeployment request, it is important to bear in mind that your employer might take the view that during a pandemic they have a legal entitlement to treat redeployment as mandatory, or a ‘reasonable management’ request. In those circumstances refusal to comply with such requests could be considered to be a disciplinary matter by your employer. Each situation will need to be assessed on its own individual facts.

Taking all circumstances into account, it is always advisable to approach discussions about potential redeployment reasonably. There may be circumstances where your employer will be within their legal rights to insist that you accept certain changes in your employment.

However, we have now reached a stage where the clinical context may no longer need such redeployment and you should carefully consider whether this is still justified by the current circumstances.

The BMA has concerns that some employers are using the pandemic as a justification for such arrangements to address workforce shortages and rota gaps.

It is not appropriate to maintain such altered working arrangements in response to regular winter pressures, or managing the backlog of care, as these are not exceptional pressures.

If you are in any way concerned about redeployment, please call us as early as possible so that we can give you guidance and advice tailored to your circumstances on 0300 123 1233 or via [email protected].

Responsibilities of your employer

If you do agree to redeployment, your employer is responsible for you and must risk assess all transfer requirements, including your personal safety and the clinical circumstances. This includes not asking you to act outside of your competencies. You must:

  • be given reasonable notice of redeployment
  • be given the opportunity to confirm your individual competencies before redeployment
  • not be asked to operate beyond your competence or in a role that you are not confident doing 
  • where possible, undertake any training you feel that you need before your redeployment placement starts
  • have any caring responsibilities taken into account
  • understand the requirements of the revised role in your new placement, in particular working at a different level of responsibility, before accepting to be redeployed
  • understand how and from whom to seek support and advice once active in your new role
  • receive written confirmation that any change to your duties will be for a specific limited period only to respond to the current emergency, and your remaining terms of employment under your individual contract and nationally agreed contracts will be unaffected
  • confirm in writing a date as to when your redeployment can be reviewed and, if you choose to do so, ended and
  • receive clarity on payment arrangements.

See the BMA’s COVID-19 ethical issues guidance and the GMC’s FAQs regarding working outside your speciality or competence for more detailed advice.

If you are concerned about any requests being made of you by your employer, or feel you are being or have been pressured into redeploying without your consent, please contact us. 

Need help? For questions about any aspect of your working life, our advisers are here to help you. Opening times: 8am - 8pm Monday to Friday (excluding UK bank holidays) and 9am - 12pm on Saturdays.

Induction and training


Expect to receive a full induction programme, at the latest, upon arrival at your redeployment placement. As a minimum, this should include:

  • exact timings of shift patterns and breaks
  • details of the rostering team and system in place, how to access your shifts and who to notify regarding sickness absence, annual leave and other changes, for example, downloading the allocate app, or whatever facility is in use, to your smartphone in preparation
  • the self-isolation protocol at your seconded placement. Where possible, familiarise yourself with this before starting work
  • where to acquire PPE (personal protective equipment), the safe areas to put on and take off equipment and training in how to do this
  • the locations of rest areas and where to get food and drink
  • supervision and accountability arrangements – ideally, this will be clarified in advance of your start date
  • any clinical or non-clinical training you may require before starting work
  • occupational health and wellbeing provision and instructions on how to access it
  • how to report concerns or feedback
  • the team, for instance, the different clinical and non-clinical roles, you will be working with.

Although the minimum cover requirement is advised by NHS Employers to be around two weeks, staff may be asked to undertake a four to six-week placement.

Before agreeing to redeployment, you should consider the length of placement that fits best with your own personal considerations. Considerations before agreeing to redeployment could include:

  • caring responsibilities
  • being away from your loved ones
  • training and education
  • medical academics undertaking research. 


Where possible, you should undertake any training required before your redeployment placement starts and this should happen during work time and be remunerated.

A relevant training package, developed by clinicians, should be delivered by trained staff to all individuals that have agreed to be redeployed as part of their induction. A team of expert clinicians and educators should be in place to deliver this training.

Once trained, staff may return to their previous role until they are on the rota to work in their redeployed placement.

Junior doctors

If you are not inducted or supervised properly, or have concerns about the training you have or have not been provided when joining the new department, it is crucial that you raise this with the DME of the trust that you are working in. If these are not heeded, then it is crucial that you raise this with your postgraduate dean as your responsible officer.


Terms and conditions

There should be no detriment to your pay, and you should be paid at least what you are usually paid in line with your existing terms and conditions. Payment will be made through your employer.

Any additional hours worked will be paid in line with your existing terms and conditions or in line with local/regional agreements if more beneficial. This includes adjustments to pay that may be due as a result of any alterations to your working pattern.

Please see our guidance pages for the BMA’s position on how we believe your Terms and Conditions should be managed during the pandemic.


PPE (personal protective equipment)

Make sure you have the appropriate, properly fit-tested PPE to work safely and without risk, which includes having and knowing the safe areas to put on and take off equipment and how to do this safely (see the Public Health England guidance for a detailed explanation).

Given how exhausting wearing PPE can be, you also need to take regular breaks that are long enough to allow safe removal.

We know all doctors and other NHS staff are devoted to caring for patients. However, if you do not believe the equipment provided is safe or there is a lack of PPE available, you cannot be forced to work until you have been reassured you will have access to the right safety wear.

For more detailed information, see the BMA’s refusing to treat where PPE is inadequate, PPE for doctors and our FAQs about ethics.


Working with other clinical and non-clinical staff during your redeployment

If redeployed, you will often be working alongside familiar staff groups such as nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists. However, you may also find that you are working alongside unfamiliar staff groups, some of whom will also have been redeployed.

Some medical students have previously been given the option to be redeployed to non-medical clinical posts, while trainee physician associates have been redeployed to lower-level clinical posts.

You may also work alongside staff who do have no healthcare experience, eg healthcare support workers or volunteers who do not require prior experience.

It is essential that all redeployed doctors, other staff and deployed volunteers receive a full induction prior to starting in their new placement. This should outline to you the types of staff you will be working alongside, their responsibilities and their supervision arrangements.


Your health and wellbeing during your redeployment

The BMA has produced guidance on doctors’ wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before agreeing to redeployment, doctors should seek an occupational health assessment if they are pregnant or have health conditions which could place them at additional risk. It is also important to alert your host employer to any reasonable adjustments that you require.

Breaks and food

During long shifts, opportunities to rest, eat and rehydrate are essential. This is further enhanced by the likelihood that you will be spending long periods wearing PPE. Employers must ensure that all redeployed staff have appropriate breaks, access to rest areas and refreshments. Information about this should be provided in your induction.

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Your wellbeing

We have a range of services to support you.

  • Counselling
  • Peer support
  • UK wellbeing support directory

Call our free and confidential helpline on 0330 123 1245

View our services

Your accommodation and travel if you are asked to work away from home

If you are asked to work in a care setting that is further from home than your usual place of work, you should be provided with the option of free accommodation for the duration of your redeployment. However, should you wish to travel to work from home, then you should be able to claim travel expenses for the extra distance.

Policies on accommodation, travel and expenses may differ between localities so you should check that you are satisfied with what is being offered prior to agreeing to redeployment.

For those accommodated away from home, this may include the option to claim expenses for meals and living costs such as laundry and wi-fi.

In line with the BMA fatigue and facilities charter, sleep facilities should be made available free of charge for all redeployed staff who are rostered or voluntarily resident on-call at night.


Reporting concerns and offering feedback

If you are on a visa and need to change sponsors due to redeployment

You may be redeployed to a hospital or care setting in another area, which may mean you will need to be issued with a new certificate of sponsorship.

If you are a BMA member and you need to talk through your immigration status, please contact the BMA immigration advice service on 0300 123 1233.


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