Aspiring healthcare students at North East Scotland College (Nescol) have been left “in limbo” and unable to continue their studies due to confusion over funding for vital insurance required for placements.
The group of 17 studying care and administrative practice at Nescol have been told they cannot undertake practical work workplace because funding for coronavirus-related life assurance has not been made available to them by the Scottish Government.
The Nescol students, who upon completion of their HNCs will be able enter later stages of study at university, are believed to be among a number of others in a similar situation across the country.
Without the insurance in place, 19-year-old Nathan Yorkston, from Stonehaven, will be unable to start his efforts to accumulate the up to 720 hours of workplace experience he requires to complete his course.
Mr Yorkston, who hopes to be a paramedic, said: “The backbone of our course is placement, there was no queries over whether or not we would be able to get on placement when we were accepted to the course, but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks in that non-NHS students would not be allowed placement because the Covid-19 death in service insurance had been withdrawn.
“Everyone’s itching to go on their placements, but there’s so much doubt.
“We’re just so disappointed that we’ve not really even been given a reason why.
“Placement is what we came on the course to do.
“We need to cover 675 to 720 hours, so every minute is crucial and we were meant to start it on October 26.”
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie has written to the Scottish Government’s health minister Jeane Freeman asking for the insurance cover to be put in place.
He said: “Covid-19 has complicated education immensely, but there are subjects where working in the field is irreplaceable.
“These students are in limbo. And if this decision shuts down career opportunities for even one north-east nurse, that’s unacceptable.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said the health board is “very keen to welcome further education students back with us in our clinical learning environments”.
A Nescol spokesman said: “The unique circumstances this year have brought challenges for colleges throughout Scotland in relation to placements, particularly in care settings, and the sector is committed to working with employers in the public and private sector to minimise disruption.
“Nescol is liaising with the NHS in relation to this specific issue.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are aware of queries raised by a small number of further education students undertaking health and social care-related courses in the north of Scotland about the potential impacts of the pandemic in relation to the provision of placement time in NHS settings, including concerns about access to coronavirus related life assurance.
“We are actively working with colleges, universities and NHS Scotland health boards to facilitate as much placement activity as possible.
“We are considering the issue of coronavirus-related life assurance as it applies to health students, including students who are not undertaking a nursing degree, but who are undertaking qualifications that can lead onto training that provides qualification as a nurse.”