Student nurses denied £2k recognition pay despite stepping up during Derry COVID-19 surge

A student nurse who worked during the COVID-19 wave last autumn has complained of being denied a special £2,000 recognition payment by the Department of Health (DoH).

Friday, 13th August 2021, 5:01 pm

David Magee, is one of several students at Magee College, who, he says, have been told they are ineligible.

The Dubliner has already qualified in general nursing and is now undertaking a further specialist nursing qualification at the university.

He explained that because he, and his colleagues, are not general nursing undergraduates, they’ve been told they don’t meet the criteria.

“Ninety-nine per cent of student nurses who worked for free during the pandemic got a payment of £2,000 as a pandemic recognition payment but students who have one kind of nursing in another field, which is about five of us, are excluded from the pandemic recognition payment,” he said.

Mr. Magee, who is undertaking a learning disabilities nursing specialisation, believes it is unfair that the payment has not been made available to all of those who put their shoulders to the wheel during the pandemic.

“We worked front lines in the hospital. I was working in a cardiology ward in Altnagelvin during October and November when Derry was the hotspot. Now we are told our work is worth less than our colleagues,” he said.

On January 27, 2021, the Health Minister Robin Swann announced the payment would be rolled out to ‘all qualifying healthcare students who have been on specified pre-registration programmes over the period October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021’.

Mr. Magee wrote to the minister to draw attention to the exclusion of the students in Derry.

Peter Barbour, Assistant Director, Workforce Policy, in a letter of response issued on behalf of Mr. Swann, wrote: “The Minister has repeatedly stated his appreciation to all who have contributed in any way to managing the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given the responsibility to manage public money and prioritise limited resources, it has been necessary for qualifying criteria to determine and specify the scope for the exceptional recognition student payment of £2,000.

“The Minister has accordingly determined that these criteria should focus on those students on specific programmes with whom the Department has the most direct relationship through the process of the commissioning of training.

“These criteria were set out on the Department’s website and fully communicated to the relevant universities.”

The ‘Journal’ asked the Department to respond to Mr. Magee’s complaint and was directed to a HSC Staff Recognition Payment Frequently Asked Questions section on the departmental website.

This simply states that only ‘students on specified pre-registration health and social care programmes commissioned by the Department of Health over the period October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021’ qualify.