Brian Webster-Henderson

Cumbria’s student nurses step up in coronavirus crisis


Student nurses and allied health students currently studying at the University of Cumbria are poised to take up positions in the NHS in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) and Chair of the Council of Deans of Health UK, confirmed that some of the university’s healthcare students are being invited to take up appropriate roles in the NHS to help support the registered workforce.

Third year nursing students with less than six months to registration are being given the opportunity to go back into placement in an opt-in basis and will be paid for their contribution to the NHS workforce at this time.

Second year students who are not in the final six months of study will also be invited to spend 80 percent of their time in clinical practice and 20 percent in academic study during the emergency period – this time will be remunerated and again recognises the significant contribution our students can make to the healthcare workforce at a time of national crisis.

During this placement, students will work within “an appropriate delegated framework” according to a recent statement made by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

In contrast, all first-year nursing student placements have been paused and the university is supporting students to progress their academic learning instead.

This comprehensive approach includes students currently studying in allied health care professions who go on to qualify as paramedics, radiographers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

These students are being drafted into placement on an emergency rota basis. However, it is still voluntary and they can opt-out if they choose.

It is estimated that this approach could increase the NHS workforce in Cumbria and North Lancashire by an additional 352 student nurses.

Professor Brian Webster-Henderson who is Pro-Vice Chancellor for the University of Cumbria, also holds a national position as Chair of the Council of Deans of Health UK and has played in instrumental role in mobilising the student body to support the NHS’ needs.

He said: “We are working under unprecedented circumstances and we needed to find a pragmatic approach ensuring our dedicated students can contribute to the fight against this virus where they wish to do so.

“Their well-being is uppermost and it’s imperative that our students only work within their competency.

“The university is taking its role very seriously in working with NHS to ensure our students can make a positive contribution, while balancing their welfare on these extended placements.”

This news comes at the university unveils plans to roll-out free online training for registered nurses to help them care for critically ill patients.

The training, funded by Health Education England, will be available to nurses in North East, Cumbria, Yorkshire and North Lancashire.

This training is to upskill the workforce to help them develop the knowledge and skills necessary when caring for patients who are critically unwell due to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Ken Holmes, a senior lecturer in medical imaging sciences at the university’s Institute of Health, is working with scores of radiography colleagues around the world. Ken, a Fellow of the College of Radiographers, and Professor Peter Hogg, from Salford University, have helped produce new e-learning resources that focus on carrying out mobile chest X-rays on patients with or suspected of having Covid-19.

The resources are for new radiographers entering the workforce and those medical imaging colleagues who are switching from their usual areas of expertise and serving on the frontline during the pandemic.

All of the University of Cumbria’s campus operations remain closed and teaching has transferred online. All students are being supported by their programme leaders in the process.

Where online teaching is impractical, i.e. for practical or laboratory activity, the university is seeking to achieve students' learning outcomes by alternative methods.


Picture: Brian Webster-Henderson, Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) at University of Cumbria and Chair of the Council of Deans of Health UK

(photo courtesy of Newsquest Cumbria, please credit)