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Medical students offered £11 per hour to cover junior doctor strikes

Medical students offered £11 per hour to cover junior doctor strikes

A Leeds hospital trust has asked medical students to provide clinical support on wards during the upcoming 72-hour junior doctor strike.

In an email seen by Pulse, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust recently offered medical students £11.11 per hour to work as ‘clinical support workers’ on weekdays, in an effort to tackle staff shortages.

The trust ‘routinely’ invites medical students to take up this role to work alongside consultants, but not as doctors, according to Dr Hamish McLure, the chief medical officer.

He said the email was part of this routine process and the shifts would help to ‘maintain patient safety’ on the wards during the industrial action, which is due to take place from 13 to 15 March.

Several other trusts have reached out to medical students in order to help cover staffing gaps resulting from the industrial action, according to The Guardian’s reporting.

This comes as health secretary Steve Barclay failed to avert the strike action in a meeting yesterday, telling the BMA he had ‘no authority’ to renegotiate pay. 

The BMA announced the walkout last week based on junior doctor pay being eroded by more than 26% over 15 years, with more than 36,200 junior doctors voting to strike. 

The email from the Leeds trusts’ medical workforce team to students in the area said: ‘Whilst we support our staff with their decisions we need to have plans in place to ensure the continuity of safe patient care.

‘I would therefore appreciate it if you could consider supporting the wards by covering any of the affected days in the role of Medical Student Support Worker.’

It offered students £11.11 per hour for working Monday to Friday, £15 for Saturday, and £18.78 for Sunday.

Dr Hamish McLure said: ‘Our priority during any period of industrial action is to be able to provide safe services for our patients, whilst supporting our Junior Doctor colleagues and their right to take strike action should they wish to. We respect the wishes of our colleagues in whatever they choose to do.

‘We routinely invite our Year 5 medical students to take shifts as Clinical Support Workers (CSW) in addition to their training placements, which we are maintaining during the strike period.

‘They will be working in an established CSW role alongside our consultants, and not as doctors. These shifts will also help our clinicians maintain patient safety on our wards during the upcoming strikes.’

The Guardian reported that final year students at Brighton and Sussex Medical School were also asked to support clinical work at the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.

However, a spokesperson for the Trust responded: ‘Utilising student doctors to provide cover during the upcoming junior doctors strike has never been part of our strike planning.

‘We are surprised to hear that a student doctor was put in a position where they thought this would be expected of them; this should not have happened, and we will be looking into the issue.’

While some hospitals are looking to bring medical students onto the ward, the Doctors’ Association UK, which represents frontline doctors, called on medical schools to suspend clinical placements during the strike days in a letter on Monday.

The letter cited both the clinical and legal risk of asking medical students to ‘act-up’, and said this would be ‘undermining the effect of industrial action’. 

It added: ‘Students lack the professional indemnity to carry out such roles and would be putting themselves at risk doing so.’

In its industrial action guidance for medical students, the BMA says students ‘should not be asked to fulfil the role of a junior doctor during strike action’ and urges them to refuse any offers of cover work and then notify the union. 

Ray Effah, co-chair of the BMA’s medical students committee, said medical students should not be asked to undertake any tasks ‘that would sit outside the normal parameters of their placements’ during the industrial action.

He said: ‘It is absolutely crucial that medical students work with relevant supervision and in a way that is safe and within the limits of their competence and capability at all times.

‘This includes any periods of pressure experienced by the health service they are learning in, including pressures created by other healthcare workers taking industrial action. 

‘The purpose of students on placement is to learn, not service provision.’



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Sam Macphie 3 March, 2023 7:12 pm

Effah’s words sound about right, except could students be a sort of well-meaning ‘blackleg’ and simply prolong any strikes?
Anyone know?

Douglas Callow 3 March, 2023 7:13 pm

just say no good people
This administration doesn’t deserve you

Marie Williams 3 March, 2023 7:47 pm

A true indication of what management actually think junior doctors are worth and the importance of the work they do.

And indeed what they believe can get away with paying.

£11.11 an hour – if you strike break for this derisory amount it will set the tone of your future.

Iain Chalmers 3 March, 2023 8:01 pm

Those of us who have reached a certain age may recall a system of “student locums” interesting learning experience but the important caveat was cover.

If on strike that’s missing need to be TTFO IMHO

Anonymous 4 March, 2023 6:33 am

Medical students already work as HCAs / phlebs. I am surprised that some trusts employ them during their full time undergraduate education.

On the other hand, nobody cares. They could work in tesco on the same principle.

Benjamin Williams 4 March, 2023 12:06 pm

Just goes to show they really do think the work of junior doctors is barely worth the minimum wage.
Our medical school had a similar scheme over holiday periods working at the local trust. It was £10/hour in 2008, which about double the minimum wage back then.

christopher Quinn 5 March, 2023 7:18 pm

I wonder what the GMC have to ssay about this . Who will supervise them , Who will support an error in patient care , they cant prescribe , How does medico legal insurance work . Clearly the management are not considering the consequences of a mistake. They are not qualified doctors but I fear they’ll potentially get into a serious situation and the outcome could be catastrophic. My advice is DONT DO IT .

Mr Marvellous 6 March, 2023 7:01 am

On the upside, some of the students working on Sundays might actually be earning more then qualified junior doctors on other days if the week….


Murray Wilson 6 March, 2023 3:59 pm

Interesting. My mum’s private ‘ home help’ is paid £15 per hour. Hmmmm.
Medical students take note.

John Ashcroft 8 March, 2023 10:39 am

I hope medical students will not “blackleg”.
But I remember doing a locum in my 5th year for the House officer on the surgical firm I was on. There was a quirk of the NHS pension system which I think is still there that it increased my time in NHS employment.
My NHS pension as a GP was dependent on my dynamized NHS GP earnings multiplied by total time in NHS employment.
So that one week locum ultimately increased my NHS pension by a couple of percent. Well worth it.