Students - coronavirus FAQs

This collection of FAQs covers some of the key issues that have been raised to date by students on pre-registration physiotherapy degrees. They will be regularly updated as advice changes or new issues emerge.

These FAQs cover the following:

Final year students

I am in my final year and concerned that I will not reach my 1000 placement hours in time for graduation. What do you advise?

  • During these unprecedented times, the CSP is also allowing universities discretion and flexibility on this. Programme teams have been encouraged to consider different delivery and assessment methods to ensure that you meet your module and programme learning outcomes so that you can be confident that you have met the HCPC standards of proficiency. This will mean looking at your overall individual profile, including your placement profile if you haven’t completed the 1000 hours. Teams will also look at your academic profile, which is just as important in helping them to make their assessment.

    (Last reviewed 05 Jan 2021)

I plan to work as a physiotherapist in another country. Will I need to have at least 1000 hours of clinical placement to do this? 

A number of countries require you to have accrued a specific number of hours in particular clinical specialities during your pre-registration programme. If you are a final year student and plan to work outside of the UK, speak to your programme team about how you can accrue extra hours at a later date. (Read more about working abroad.)

The World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT) is looking into the international recognition of clinical hours for students and graduates affected by the pandemic. We will share their response as soon as it is published.

(Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

Is the HCPC temporary still open to final year students?

No, the HCPC temporary register closes as of 30th November 2020. You can proceed to register to the standard HCPC register once you have graduated.

(Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

First year students

What should I do as a first-year student?

Many first year students will begin their course using distance/online learning approaches, while clinical placement time will be postponed. Please be assured that the HCPC and the CSP are working closely with your university to reduce the impact of your programme’s temporary restructure.

(Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)


Will face-to-face placements continue during the early 2021 lockdown?

  • There is no indication that placements will formally stop although pressures in many parts of the system will affect placement provision. We expect provision will vary across the UK due to a variety of factors (such as workforce capacity, risk and the appropriateness of the settings, access to PPE and testing). Your programme team will be able to provide you with more information as soon as they know.

    (Last reviewed 05 Jan 2021)

Why are paid placements not being offered to physio students in 2021?

During the Spring and Summer of 2020, paid placements were introduced in England by the Department of Health and Social Care to enable students to support the Covid-19 response. Though a number of students were able to work within this system, the introduction of paid placements put additional pressure on university staff and practice teams and led to delays in student progression.

Unlike the 2020 wave, in 2021, physiotherapy placement capacity (in the majority of settings) remains able to sustain normal placement delivery. This means that students are continuing to accrue hours while receiving the appropriate support in order to meet learning outcomes.

The CSP supports the continuation of placements within the existing (non-paid) system while capacity remains stable. Working with universities and key stakeholders, the CSP will continue to monitor placement provision.

NHS Health Education England has also advised that placements for AHP students continue as planned. Read more on their website.

(Last reviewed 18 Jan 2021)

If I cannot or do not feel able to undertake placements at this time, what shall I do? 

If you do not feel able to undertake placements due to a health condition that puts you or someone you live with at risk (or for any other reason), please speak to your university to discuss the options available to you. This may involve continuing with the academic elements of your study through distance learning/online approaches or undertaking a remote placement from home. Universities are working on the principle of supporting all students so you are not disadvantaged in progressing.

(Last reviewed 17 Feb 2021)

Why has my university cancelled or postponed face-to-face placements?

Trusts and boards are adjusting to the pandemic impact in different ways due to multiple and changing factors. They are having to make decisions about the provision of placements based on workforce capacity, risk and the appropriateness of the settings. Because of this, many students have had their placements cancelled or postponed as staff were unable to provide the correct support. 

The CSP is working with universities and clinical practice to help placements restart in the safest way possible. This includes the provision of remote placements.

(Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

I am not in my final year, but I am concerned about not accruing all my placement hours.

Your course teams are already considering how to address a temporary shortfall of placement opportunities. This has involved, in the first instance, changing the order of programme delivery with a focus on lectures and written assignments over the spring and summer terms. While this action has the potential to place a burden later down the line on placement providers, your course teams will be working with local providers and neighbouring institutions to find solutions.

We advise that, regardless of the need to respond to the immediacy of this situation, your university must be able to assure the programme team, you as the student, employers and ultimately the service users, that anyone graduating meets the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Standards of Proficiency. In addition, they must be confident that you are not disadvantaged in the medium to long-term by any changes made at this time.

(Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

I have returned to my family home (or home country). What are my options? 

If you have moved away from your university, discuss with your programme team whether it would be possible for you to work clinically where you are currently (or undertake a remote placement). You will be supported by your university to consider the options available to you including continuing with the academic elements of your study through distance learning/online approaches or an authorised break in your studies.

(Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

I am concerned that a virtual placement won’t provide me with the experiences and skills I need for when I graduate. Will I be disadvantaged?

  • Quite the opposite. The physiotherapy profession is evolving and digital physiotherapy is here to stay. Having the opportunity to undertake a virtual placement offers a valuable opportunity to develop digital skills, many of which you can take back to face-to-face environments. Your universities will be considering your placement profiles to ensure you get a breadth of experience both virtual and face to face.

    Employers are looking for graduates who have developed their non-clinical skills, such as time management and communication. Your reflections of your virtual placement will help you to identify and articulate what you have learnt (and how you can apply your learning) in preparation for future job applications and interviews.

    Read more about virtual and Technology Enabled Care Service (TECS) placements and what employers are looking for from the next generation of graduates.

    (Last reviewed 05 Jan 2021)


Employment as healthcare support workers or assistants

I heard the NHS is asking students to work as healthcare assistants and support workers. Should I look for employment?

  • In February 2021, NHS Health Education England (HEE) published a letter stating that AHP students can voluntarily sign up for paid work to support NHS frontline clinical services. While the option for students to gain part-time employment as healthcare support workers and assistants is not new, HEE are again encouraging NHS organisations in England to employ AHP students (where needed) as part of the current response to COVID-19.

    The opportunity to work part-time, in addition to your studies, is voluntary. Before applying for a part-time position, please consider if you are able to fit in the hours (and travel) alongside your current commitments in order to prioritise your education. While this paid employment will offer you additional clinical experience, your shifts will not count towards placement hours. Should you take up a role, make sure you also schedule time to rest and recoup.

    It is important to note that workforce requirements vary across England (as they do for all nations) and not all Trusts will be looking to recruit new support workers at this time.

    (Last reviewed 17 Feb 2021)

If I am employed as a healthcare support worker or assistant, what CSP membership do I need?

  • Should you find employment as a support worker or assistant (or already be employed as one), we strongly recommend upgrading your membership to the CSP's Associate student category. This means you’ll have all the benefits of student membership, plus a few extras to give you peace of mind during these exceptional times, namely: 

  • Associate student membership costs £9.92 per month. Depending on how you pay your student membership,  what you are charged will be adjusted accordingly from the month that you want the upgrade to start (so you will only pay the difference).  

    We advise changing your membership after you receive a job offer in writing. You can then complete the changing membership form and a member of the CSP team will be in touch. Should you have any questions, please email or call 020 7306 6666. If you want to change back to student membership, just complete the same form again. Changes take up to a month to be processed.

    (Last reviewed 17 Feb 2021)

Covid-19 vaccines and tests

As a physiotherapy student, am I entitled to the Covid-19 vaccine and when will I receive it?

  • Students who are undertaking placements involving face-to-face patient contact should be vaccinated. As with other members, the situation may vary depending on where you study.

    England and Wales
    The Welsh and English governments both accept that students on patient facing placements should be vaccinated as part of the health and care workforce.
    Where placements are within NHS organisations they will be responsible for vaccinations in the same way they are for their employees. Speak to your practice educator if you have not been advised how to access vaccination.
    Where placements are with non-NHS bodies, the arrangements applying to their staff or partners will apply. These have yet to be confirmed. This advice will be updated once the arrangements are announced.

    Scotland and Northern Ireland
    The CSP is seeking urgent clarification from the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive about the policies and arrangements in these countries. However, we expect these to be similar to those in England and Wales.

    Read more about the vaccine.

    (Last reviewed 14 Jan 2021)

If I have had my first vaccine, but have finished my placement, when and where will I receive the second vaccine?

  • A second vaccine should be arranged by the provider of the first dose at the appropriate time and an appointment should be provided. Even if the student has left the trust and the placement has finished, the student should return for the second dose to ensure the same vaccine is administered and that records are updated. The CSP is seeking further clarification from Public Health England on who is coordinating student vaccines overall, but, at the moment, this sits with the placement provider.

    Read more about the vaccine.

    (Last reviewed 07 Jan 2021)

Am I able to support the roll out of vaccinations?

  • In terms of delivery of the vaccination programme, physiotherapy students have not been recommended to administer injections, in order to avoid potential delays to their education. Read more about the vaccine.

    (Last reviewed 05 Jan 2021)

How can I receive a Covid-19 test whilst on placement?

  • Testing plays a crucial role in protecting the frontline workforce and reducing the spread of the virus. If you are on placement, please follow local policy. Your educator will inform you of the process (which will vary across settings and regions). 

    If you experience any Covid symptoms, please contact your educator and university as soon as you can. They will instruct you on whether they can arrange a swab test for you or if you should order a free test via the Government’s website. (As a student on placement, you qualify as an ‘Essential worker’.) Please note that, if you have symptoms, you and anyone you live with must self-isolate until you get your result (or for at least 10 days if you cannot be tested).

    Read more about testing.

    (Last reviewed 05 Jan 2021)


Working in clinical settings with Covid-19 patients

What do I do if I have concerns about exposure to Covid-19?

Your health and safety is an absolute priority. If you have concerns about exposure, talk to your manager (or your supervisor if on placement) who will advise and support you in order to work in a safe environment. It is possible that you may not be asked to treat anyone with or suspected of having Covid-19. 

However, if you are, your placement provider must carry out risk assessments in line with the Covid-19 guidance for infection prevention and control in healthcare settings (available online). They should put in place the necessary procedures, including identification of potential patients with Covid-19 symptoms, safe systems of work including isolation, staff training, monitoring protocol and sufficient supply of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. You will also be instructed on how to look after your uniform and equipment and how to wear and remove your PPE safely.

More information on PPE is available from the Health and Safety Executive (the agency that enforces health and safety) and from the CSP - see our Clinical Practice FAQs.

If you suspect that you have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 (within or outside of your workplace), without the protection of PPE, contact your manager (or educator and link tutor if on placement) and your university, as soon as possible and follow the isolation procedures outlined by the government.

Also, if you or anyone you live with has any of the long-term health conditions that may put you at a greater risk from COVID-19, please speak to your university who will advise you about self-isolation measures.

(Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

What do I do if appropriate PPE is not provided? 

Initially raise this immediately with your manager (or clinical supervisor if on placement). They may contact the infection control lead in the organisation for advice if you feel the PPE provided to you is inadequate.  If you cannot access your supervisor, contact their manager or a lead physiotherapy manager and raise this with them. 

If, after talking to managers and infection control, you remain concerned about the lack of personal equipment supply, fitting and infection control measures in place, you should talk to your university team (or manager, if working) in order that they raise it with the organisation on your behalf.  You can also seek advice from the workplace CSP safety rep. Check with other physiotherapists in your workplace to see if there is an accredited CSP safety rep you can talk to (or call the CSP enquires unit on 020 7306 666 and they can advise you on who this is). With their health and safety knowledge, safety reps are able to conduct inspections in the workplace and liaise directly with managers.  

(Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

What can I do to prepare myself for working in clinical settings?

Ensure you are as informed as possible about Covid-19. Take time to identify what additional knowledge, skills and training you may need for the clinical areas into which you may be deployed. Then begin some self-directed learning, starting with the following:

  • Health Education England (HEE) has developed a programme of Covid-19 eLearning courses. Following registration to the portal these are free to access for all UK healthcare staff (and students using your email address).
  • NHS England has provided resources to support staff education.
  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has produced a series of rapid guidelines and evidence reviews.
  • The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care (ACPRC) has learning resources (include eLearning content) to support those working in respiratory physiotherapy with Covid-19 patients.
    • The CSP professional networks have numerous learning resources, many dedicated to upskilling staff as part of the Covid-19 response.

    In addition to your learning, make sure your personal support networks are aware of how you will be required to work over the coming weeks and months. Be sure to put measures in place so you can access practical and emotional support if you need it.

    (Last reviewed 14 Jan 2021)


    Learning online

    Will I be disadvantaged by having my lectures online instead of face-to-face? 

    A lot of your programme’s content can be delivered online as effectively as if you are sitting in the same room. Many universities use online teaching already and have the required facilities in place. If you and your lecturers are new to distance learning, please be patient and give time to your lecturers and peers to work out what works best. That way you will be able to learn how to get the most out of each session.

    It is also important to stay in touch with your year group. Using video (such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, Houseparty or Zoom) and chat apps (like Whatsapp) can be a very useful way to do this.

    (Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

    What will happen if I am unable to complete my university-based practical assessments?

    Where it is possible, your programme team will replace practical with alternative assessment formats to enable you to complete them at home. As every programme is structured differently, and module learning outcomes vary, these adaptations will vary across programmes, year groups and, in some cases, individuals. Please keep in touch with your lecturers about the changes made at your university.

    (Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

    I’m struggling to use online resources and access my virtual lectures. What do I do?

    Let your programme team know if you are not able to access your resources online or if you are struggling to learn in this way. Your tutors and lecturers (and library staff) will be able to advise you on alternative methods or provide you with extra support. Speak to your university (and peers) if you are experiencing technical issues. Do not suffer in silence. If you are unable to engage with online work in the usual way and feel you have extenuating or mitigating circumstances (e.g. you don t have Wi-Fi in a rural location or you are caring for someone else), speak to your module or course leaders to ensure they are aware of your situation and that you can submit the relevant application for extensions and supply evidence in accordance with your university regulations.

    (Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

    I feel that other universities are dealing with the pandemic better than my institution. Is there a right and wrong way?

    Each university is having to adapt how it delivers courses, and each institution is making slightly different decisions. This means that what your university is doing might be different to what’s happening at a neighbouring institution. This is a positive and necessary approach because each programme is structured differently. Here at the CSP, we are speaking to your lecturers to ensure they are making the right decisions for you as an individual, your year group as a whole and the frontline workforce. Your safety is your university’s number one priority.   

    Please rest assured the temporary changes your tutors are making is in consultation with the CSP and do comply with our expectations of accredited programmes. Should you have any questions, please speak to your programme team so they can explain.

    (Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)

    Well-being, finances and communication

    How do I stay up to date about Covid-19 developments and its impact on my degree?  

    As the Covid-19 situation continues, we will be contacting your university with further advice and guidance. Your university will then contact you to let you know how this impacts you.

    We also encourage students to have a read through the CSP’s Covid-19 FAQs and to follow @thecspstudents on Twitter  and  Instagram. We will contact you by email should any developments impact upon your membership (such as the temporary register).

    (Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)


    I require childcare. Do I qualify as a key worker?

    The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed to the NHS Business Services Authority and the Council of Deans that students undertaking clinical healthcare courses are contributing to the national Covid-19 response and can self-identify as key workers. If your school or childcare provider requires evidence, this can be obtained from your university.

    (Last reviewed 05 Jan 2021)

    I have caring responsibilities. What support can I receive? 

    Many students combine university study with the care or support of a family member, friend, or partner. During the Covid pandemic, this may pose additional challenges to your studies. Please speak to a member of staff in your School or the Student Welfare team to agree a written support plan covering any necessary adjustments. Also note that, as a student on an physiotherapy pre-registration degree, you qualify as a key worker (see the above FAQ).

    (Last reviewed 13 Jan 2021)

    As a student – how do I best take care of myself and manage my worries?

    Please look out for your emotional wellbeing. Seek support from your university’s counselling service, from staff, peers, and family.

    You can also find support online and by phone:

    • Mind has provided a toolkit to help you take care of your wellbeing while in self-isolation
    • International SOS offers a video on mental health resilience
    • Big White Wall is an anonymous community where members can support each other
    • Young Minds provides information and guidance on mental health
    • Samaritans are available 24/7 if you need to talk to someone (call 116123)

    If you become unwell, please follow the isolation procedures outlined by the government and the NHS 111website and, if working, immediately inform your line manager and withdraw from work. (If you are employed within NHS, you will be entitled to sick pay.)

    If you’re worried about how the pandemic will affect your course, please speak directly with your lecturers and tutors. They are co-ordinating local contingency plans which will support you to continue with your studies, this includes placements where possible. Your lecturers are taking advice from the CSP, the Council of Deans of Health (CoDH) and the HCPC. Please note that advice and approaches may well be different from year group to year group or even for individuals, depending on your personal circumstances. They are doing everything possible to support the continuation of your studies so you can graduate as close to when your programme is due to finish as is possible.

    We are producing some student videos to help explain what’s going on in the background. Please look out for these on Twitter and Instagram (@thecspstudents).

    Take care of yourself, and each other, in the coming weeks and months.

    (Last reviewed 26 Nov 2020)


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