More than 1,000 students across Scotland have been left unable to pursue healthcare studies amid confusion over the payment of insurance needed for placements.
It recently emerged that a group of 17 aspiring healthcare students at North East Scotland College (Nescol) were left “in limbo” due to the situation.
They have been told they cannot undertake practical work because funding for coronavirus-related life assurance has not been made available to them by the Scottish Government.
The chief executive of Colleges Scotland, Shona Struthers, has now confirmed that the problem is a nationwide one.
She said: “Colleges Scotland has been made aware of the issue of insurance requirements for healthcare students to have Covid-19 indemnity cover, and we are working with the Scottish Government to try and resolve this as a matter of urgency, so that the 1,200 college students affected are not disadvantaged in their studies and chosen career paths.
“College students, studying at the same level as first year university students, should be provided with this essential NHS-mandated insurance, particularly given that many of the students affected are from some of the most deprived areas in Scotland and are already facing significant barriers to education and employment.”
Aberdeenshire East MSP, Gillian Martin, said she has brought the matter to Nicola Sturgeon’s attention.
The SNP politician said: “Students require a base level of practical working hours in order to continue in their course and progress from college to university.
“If students are unable to carry out these placements in the coming weeks they may not be able to then move on to the next part of this course. I have written to the Minister for Further Education calling for this issue to be rectified as soon as possible so that students can begin their placements before time runs out.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are aware of queries raised by a small number of students undertaking health and social care related courses 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.”