Review of allowances should look at other student groups as well as nurses – Siptu

Initial review of allowances paid to student nurses to be finalised by end of the year

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil earlier this month that any exploitation of student nurses would not be tolerated. Photograph: Getty images

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil earlier this month that any exploitation of student nurses would not be tolerated. Photograph: Getty images

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The Government is expected to look at backdating any changes recommended by a review group to allowances for student nurses to the start of the college year.

An interim review of the allowances for first- to third-year student nurses, as well as the situation for those in fourth year who receive a pro-rated salary, is scheduled to be given to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on Thursday.

This review will look at the current position in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. A second review to be completed in the weeks ahead will examine the situation in the medium to longer term.

Meanwhile, the trade union Siptu has argued that the Government should introduce paid allowances for students in other healthcare disciplines such as radiography in addition to nurses and midwives.

In its submission on the review Siptu said its terms of the reference were “quite limited”, and that it fully backed students across all grades being paid for their clinical placements in the health service.

It said students on placement did not have access to sick leave and could lose out financially if they had to isolate due to contact with a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 case.

The union suggested that the Government should consider introducing temporary healthcare assistant contracts for students across all grades.

The Government announced the reviews of allowances after it came under strong pressure in recent weeks from the Opposition and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) over payments for student nurses who were on placement in hospitals and in relation to what they were being asked to do while on their placement.

The Opposition maintained that students were effectively being asked to carry out work – without pay – similar to nurses on the regular roster during their placement rather than it being an opportunity for them to learn.

The INMO declined to comment on its submission to the new review.

Equal treatment

Last spring the then government appointed student nurses and midwives to paid healthcare assistant posts, a scheme that cost €41 million. Siptu argued strongly at the time that more than 50 student radiographers, who were working on the frontline in hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic, should receive equal treatment.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil earlier this month that any exploitation of student nurses would not be tolerated.

He said student nurses who were rostered for work should be paid. He said personal experiences of individual nurses during their placement, which had been raised in the Dáil, should be sent to the HSE and Department of Health for investigation.

The HSE said last week that at senior management level it had not received any complaints from student nurses. It said details of all supports available had been brought to the attention of the students.

It is understood that the Minister is seeking a report into claims made in the Dáil about the experiences of student nurses during their placements. It is unclear as to whether this report will be carried out by the HSE or by an independent third party.