Absence from the Course
What should I do if I am ill and need to miss one day or less of the course?
If you are absent from the course for less than 24 hours because of a minor illness there is no need to report this, unless you will miss specific teaching sessions or exams for which your attendance will be expected. Under these circumstances it is your professional responsibility to make sure that the teacher is aware that you are not able to attend.
What should I do if I am ill and need to miss more than one day, but less than a week, of the course?
If you are missing a scheduled individual shift or will be absent from the course for more than 24 hours because of a minor illness, you must let your placement administrator know. Please note that if a student is absent from the course for a significant length of time, it may be necessary to make up this time at a later date (eg over the holidays) in order to be signed up for the placement. This decision will be made by the relevant Specialty Director taking into account individual circumstances. Please report to the relevant administrator for your current clinical placement and let them know when you have recovered. If you are due to be in the clinical school, please tell the Year Administrator, and if it is for a GP placement please tell Julia Skinner (firstname.lastname@example.org). It is also your professional responsibility to make sure that any teachers who are expecting you to be present are aware that you are not well.
What should I do if I am ill and need to miss more than one week of the course?
If you have a more serious health problem which might require absence from the course for more than 1 week, please contact the welfare team for advice (email@example.com). If you have an ongoing or chronic illness, then you may also need an Occupational Health assessment. You can discuss this with welfare, but Occupational Health referrals are usually made by your College.
How do I request absence from the course for academic reasons?
If you are requesting absence for academic reasons (such as presentation at an academic conference) this is likely to be granted provided that you can demonstrate that this will enhance your professional development and that you will not miss any essential curricular components such as examinations. If you are requesting absence on this basis, you will need to have your absence authorised at least 6 weeks in advance. Requests should be made on the proforma.
This needs to be emailed to the relevant placement administrator at least 6 weeks in advance of planned absence. If you will be missing any timetabled teaching sessions it is your professional responsibility to ensure that teachers are aware that you will not be attending and that this absence has been authorised. You are responsible for contacting teachers to try and rearrange missed teaching sessions where necessary, but need to be aware that this may not be possible. Under these circumstances it is your responsibility to ensure that you have met curricular objectives through alternative means. Note that travel expenses of up to £100 per student per academic year are available via the Clinical Dean for students presenting academic work.
Can I have any additional leave if I need to revise before an examination?
Students taking a second sitting of final MB exams will be entitled to study leave for these exams starting three full working days before the first exam and ending the day of the last exam. This will apply to students doing re-takes and students doing their first attempts. Students must inform their placement leads before the start of the placement, so that the placement can be adjusted accordingly.
How do I request compassionate leave?
We fully understand that a student faced with an emergency such as serious illness or bereavement in a close relative will appropriately want to be with their family. Under these circumstances, please report this to the relevant administrator for your current clinical placement as soon as possible and let them know when you have returned to the course. If you are likely to be away from the course for more than a few days, or if you risk missing essential curricular components such as examination, please contact the welfare team for advice (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How does Flexible Discretionary leave work in practice?
Each student is granted three days of ‘Flexible Discretionary Leave’ per annum. Please note this is not extra holiday and you will need to make this curricular time up during annual leave or weekends. This leave may be requested for any reason eg family / religious / sporting events. If you are requesting absence on this basis, you will need to have your absence authorised in advance.
Requests should be made on the proforma which needs to be emailed to the relevant placement administrator at least 6 weeks in advance of planned absence. See the key contacts for staff list, or the individual hospital pages. Leave will generally be granted, but may be denied if the request coincides with essential curricular components such as examinations.
You need to explain on the request form how this time will be made up – this will often mean taking time out of annual leave. If necessary, the Specialty Director will be able to assist you with organising this. You need to understand that it will almost certainly not be possible to replace the time missed with an exactly comparable clinical placement. If you will be missing any timetabled teaching sessions it is your professional responsibility to ensure that teachers are aware that you will not be attending and that this absence has been authorised. You are responsible for contacting teachers to try and rearrange missed teaching sessions where necessary, but need to be aware that this may not be possible. Under these circumstances it is your responsibility to ensure that you have met curricular objectives through alternative means. A record of the amount of Flexible Discretionary Leave taken by each student will be recorded by the Clinical School. It is not possible to carry ‘unused’ Flexible Discretionary Leave days into subsequent years.
Under exceptional circumstances it may be possible to arrange for a slightly longer period of Flexible Discretionary Leave. This can only be authorised after a discussion with a senior member of the Deanery Team (Clinical Dean or a Clinical Subdean).
What shall I do if I am called for Jury Service?
Clinical Students (just like doctors) are not automatically excused from jury service. You should contact the Clinical Dean (email@example.com) to request a letter to the local jury officer requesting exemption. If necessary, you could also lobby your local MP for support.
What shall I do if I experience a bereavement?
Everyone is different and bereavement affects people in different ways. The clinical school welfare team, your college Tutor, Counsellor or Director of Clinical Studies, the University Counselling Service and your GP are all there to support you and help you manage this.
Every August, at the start of Year 5 of the Standard Course (Year 3 for the CGCM course) the Palliative Care teaching team run two half-days on bereavement; information from those sessions is on MedEd.
How do I request compassionate leave?
We fully understand that a student faced with an emergency such as serious illness or a close bereavement will appropriately want to be with their family and those close to them. Under these circumstances, please report this to the relevant administrator for your current clinical placement as soon as possible and let them know when you have returned to the course. If you are likely to be away from the course for more than a few days, or if you risk missing essential curricular components such as examinations, please contact the welfare team for advice (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What happens if it affecting my ability to prepare for or take exams?
If your experience of bereavement is affecting your academic work, please talk to your clinical DoS and see the FAQ on deferring exams and exam mitigation for further details https://www.medschl.cam.ac.uk/education/faqs/
What happens if I find certain clinical events triggering?
Some medical students find that being in certain clinical situations brings up painful memories from the past. If so, we are here to help you manage this. Talking to a member of the Welfare Team, your college counsellor, clinical DoS or tutor may help. Members of the Palliative Care teaching team will also be pleased to talk with you, particularly Stephen Barclay (email@example.com) and Derek Fraser (firstname.lastname@example.org) who run the Bereavement Symposium.
Is there counselling available?
Please talk to your college Tutor and / or Counsellor about how you are feeling. There is also the University Counselling Service (https://www.medschl.cam.ac.uk/education/faqs/)
The national charity CRUSE provides free and confidential support for people dealing with grief and bereavement, no matter when the death occurred (https://www.cruse.org.uk/)
Do remember that it is a sign of personal strength and professionalism to seek help if that would be helpful for you. You are not alone and there are people who will be glad to talk about things and support you.
Clinical Student Mental Health Service
What is it?
This is a service to provide mental health support during the clinical part of the course. After an initial assessment, usually with a consultant psychiatrist, your management might take the form of medication, and/or follow up with a clinical psychologist for therapy. The service currently consists of Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Rebecca Jacob, two Clinical Psychologists and a trainee Clinical Psychologist.
What sort of conditions are treated?
The CSMHS sees students with a variety of psychological issues and moderate to severe levels of complexity or distress. This will include anxiety, depression, adjustment disorder, social and other phobias, health anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorder.
Milder psychological difficulties may be managed by your GP, or by the Psychological Wellbeing Service (PWS). All students can self-refer to this free NHS service for an initial assessment. If talking therapy is recommended, waiting times within PWS are currently shorter than CSMHS.
Please note that psychosis, eating disorders and ADHD diagnosis and coaching is managed by local specialist NHS services, usually accessed via your GP.
How do I get referred?
The referral is made either by your GP or by Occupational Health. You cannot self-refer, and the referral cannot be made by Welfare or by your College. Local GPs are aware of the service, so referral should be straightforward. If they are unsure, the contact details are:
Clinical Student Mental Health Service, Box 190,
Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge,
T: 01223 216167 E:email@example.com
Details can also be found on the CSMHS leaflet.
Should I speak to Welfare before referral?
There is no necessity to do so, and many students are referred by their GP or by Occupational Health without any Welfare involvement. In practice, many students will have had Welfare input for their problems and may have discussed the CSMHS as part of this.
What is the waiting time to be seen?
This varies according to demand on the service. The wait for a first appointment, usually to see the psychiatrist, is typically between 4-6 weeks. There has been a recent surge in referrals and so this may increase. Psychological input can take several months.
Does the CSMHS offer urgent or emergency support?
No, the service is for planned scheduled appointments. In the event of a mental health crisis, you can do one of the following:
- Phone 111 option Mental Health – this is manned 24/7 by trained mental health practitioners
- Contact your CPFT care co-ordinator if you have one (available 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday). You will have been allocated one if you are already receiving support from mental health services. They should be your first point of contact.
- Contact your GP
- Samaritans – available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on 116 123 (free call)
- Attend ED
Do I have to pay to be seen?
No, the service is funded by the Clinical School and there is no cost for students.
What happens if I experience a relapse after my treatment has ended?
Providing you are still a clinical student, you can be reassessed for further input. If you have previously been under the CSMHS then you can contact them directly.
If you are no longer a clinical student, then you should contact your GP who will discuss your options.
Can I access the service during intermission?
This will depend on individual circumstances, is not guaranteed, and is decided on a case-by-case basis.
Factors such as whether you have already been under the service, the nature of your problem, and your geographical location during intermission are all taken into account.
Is the service confidential?
Yes, the practitioners working for the service are all bound by the GMC rules of confidentiality and would only divulge information with your permission. The only exceptions would be if it became apparent that there was a risk to your safety or that of others, or if there was a statutory or legal obligation to disclose information.
What if my circumstances change and I no longer need my appointment?
It is essential that you let the CSMHS know in good time, so that the appointment can be offered to someone else. Contact details as above.
If I have a virtual meeting during working hours can I book a room at the Clinical School?
Yes, private meeting rooms at the Clinical School can be booked via the School’s booking website.
What happens if I need to pull out of exams in advance?
If you have a significant health or welfare problem and you have the support of your College, then you may be able to defer sitting your exams. You can then sit them with the resit candidates, but as your first attempt. Permission for this will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
Who gives permission for this to happen?
You require support from College and permission from the Clinical Dean.
You cannot withdraw yourself from an exam and we need written support from your College (either Tutor or Clinical DoS). Your College’s email should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and copied to email@example.com.
Unless the circumstances arise at short notice, the permission from the Clinical Dean would usually follow discussion at a Deanery meeting.
Can I defer just a single exam?
No. If you are unable to take your exams, that will apply to all the exams at that sitting. Splitting components of Final MB would only be allowed in very exceptional circumstances and would require the permission in advance of Faculty Board.
In the event of a sudden unexpected incident, such as an accident or sudden ill-health on the morning of an exam, then you could withdraw just from that single exam. You would still require permission to do so.
Who do I need to notify?
You need to discuss this with your College in advance, to obtain their permission (as above).
In most circumstances, a student will also have discussed this with welfare well in advance (firstname.lastname@example.org). This discussion with Welfare would be the usual route to seeking permission from the Clinical Dean at a Deanery meeting.
What happens if I withdraw myself without advance permission?
In this situation it will count as one of your two exam sittings.
In an emergency (such as unexpected circumstances on the day of the exam) we would still expect you to contact your College so that they can grant permission. In the unlikely event that this is not possible then you should contact the Clinical Dean (email@example.com, marked URGENT) or one of the Clinical School SubDeans.
What if I have already started the exam?
Once you have taken your place in the examination room and the exam has formally started, then this counts as an attempt at the exam, regardless of how much you have completed. University regulations usually only permit two attempts at each exam: the main sitting and a single resit. In very exceptional circumstances, a second resit might be granted if approved by Faculty Board, but this is not guaranteed (see separate FAQs on Exam Mitigation).
What happens if I defer the exams and then fail?
If you have permission to pull out of an exam in advance and you then sit it with the resit candidates, this will count as your first attempt. However, there is then no scheduled further sitting, so if you fail, you will generally need to intermit and take your second attempt a year later.
What is the implication for ranking if I defer exams?
For ranking, it is the mean score of the students who sit the exam at the first sitting which is used. Your mark when you subsequently sit the exam is not considered for ranking purposes.
What is the impact of deferring exams on subsequent placements?
This can be disruptive to your training as the resits may clash with placements and other commitments. This is a particular issue with deferring Year 5 exams, as the start of Year 6 is already extremely busy with Senior placements, UKFP applications, SJT preparation, and Part III written Finals at Christmas. You would not usually be entitled to any prolonged study leave before the resits.
Will I need to provide a doctor’s sick note?
If you miss a summative exam at short notice for medical reasons, then you will need to provide a letter from your GP confirming this. This should be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is Exam Mitigation?
Your exams are professional exams and so are bound by University regulations, which generally allow only two attempts at an exam: the main sitting and a single resit. The exam mitigation system allows the possibility in exceptional circumstances of a third attempt if you failed the first two sittings. This would require specific permission from Faculty Board.
How does it work?
If you have a genuine health or welfare need which you think warrants exam mitigation, then you will require the support of your College (either Clinical DoS or Tutor). This expression of support is kept on file, and in the event of you failing the exam and the resit, is submitted to Faculty Board to help support a request for a second resit.
Is the second resit guaranteed?
No. The decision is made by Faculty Board and is considered an exceptional course of action. Faculty Board considers requests for an exceptional third attempt for students who have exam mitigation in place, and this is decided on an individual basis.
If a request to Faculty Board for an exceptional third attempt is turned down, then you do have a right of appeal via the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA).
What do I need to do?
Speak to your College Tutor or Clinical DoS about your concerns. If they are in agreement, then they will complete an Exam Mitigation form to express their support. This needs to be done before you sit the exam and should be received by a week before the exam at the latest.
The Exam Mitigation Form for your Tutor or Clinical DoS to complete is found on the Clinical School website under Education – Supporting Students: https://www.medschl.cam.ac.uk/education/supporting-students/
Are exam mitigation requests from College always upheld?
No. All exam mitigation requests are assessed by a panel which currently consists of Welfare and two independent doctors who are nominated by the Clinical Dean. A decision is made for each request to ensure that the process is fair. In the event that an exam mitigation request is turned down, your Clinical DoS will be informed.
What happens if my request is made are the exam has been sat?
Applications must be made before the exam. Any declaration of mitigating circumstances made after the exam will not usually be taken into account except in very exceptional circumstances.
What should I do if I am ill or something untoward happens during an exam?
Any issue during the exam which affects performance of the candidate due to circumstances beyond their control should be reported to the Clinical School (in practice the Assessment Team) in real life as this can then be officially logged and, if required, investigated ahead of/presented at the Exam Board. The usual mechanism would be via the Tutorial Office or Director of Studies.
What are the implications for timing of the resit, or for the course?
There are usually only two scheduled sittings for an exam: the main sitting and a single resit. Students requiring a third attempt will usually need to intermit from the course and retake the exam the following year.
Professional exams need to be passed in order to progress with the course.
Is there a downside to having exam mitigation in place?
Not really. In the event that a student passes at the first or second sitting, the documented support from College has no implications. The exam mitigation is kept on file and only considered further if a request to Faculty Board for an exceptional third attempt is made.
Can exam scores or pass marks be adjusted?
No. These are professional exams and there is therefore no scope for adjusting either of these as a result of your individual circumstances.
What are the implications for ranking?
For ranking purposes, it is the mark obtained at the first sitting which is used, even if you have failed this. The presence of Exam Mitigation does not change this.
How long is exam mitigation valid for?
Exam mitigation pertains only to the current set of exams and lapses after the sitting. It is not carried over to any resits. If your circumstances persist at the time of your next exams, then you should discuss with your College whether a new exam mitigation request should be submitted.
What is Faculty Board?
The Faculty Board of Clinical Medicine is the main educational governance body within the School of Medicine. It is made up of Heads of Departments and NHS consultants. It has responsibility for ensuring adherence to the regulations for the MB BChir that can be found within the University’s Statutes and Ordinances. This includes the 2nd MB components of the pre-clinical course.
What situations need to be considered by Faculty Board?
In summary, the main situations which need to be considered by Faculty Board are as follows:
- An extension of time in which to complete the course (standard course students must adhere to the 8-year rule, that is they must complete their clinical course eight years after matriculation. Other courses are generally permitted an additional two years also.)
- Starting the clinical course with 2nd MB resits outstanding
- An exceptional third attempt at a 2nd MB or Final MB examination
- An amendment to a previous approval (or the conditions of an approval) given by the Faculty Board (for example, an amendment to the timing of an exceptional third attempt)
What do I need to do?
You will be involved in the submission of the application forms by your College – either with your tutor or clinical DoS or both. If there are physical or mental health issues, you will be asked to provide supporting evidence eg medical reports. You do not need to appear in person. Faculty Board usually meets every term. You will receive a letter afterwards, explaining the decision and outlining any additional requirements.
How do I find out more?
For further advice or guidance please contact the Secretary of the Faculty Board, Dr Litsa Biggs, at email@example.com, copying in Melanie Hale (PA to the Secretary of the Faculty Board, and Faculty administrator) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are various grants, bursaries and loans available to help you cover your tuition fees and your maintenance costs (living expenses). Which of these you are eligible for will depend on individual circumstances, particularly whether you are a “home” student or not.
Please refer to the relevant website for all the organisations referred to and carefully check that you have up to date information, as details are prone to change. To the best of our knowledge, the information below is accurate as of August 2022, but we cannot be responsible for details that may have changed.
The list of funds, bursaries and grants below is not exhaustive, and you may find additional sources of support by making appropriate enquiries.
How are Student Finances Organised?
For the first three years of their course, medical students are funded in the same way as other undergraduates. The two main outgoings are tuition fees and maintenance costs. These expenses are offset by various grants and loans if eligible, particularly Student Finance England (SFE) loans for tuition fees and maintenance costs (which are repayable), and the Cambridge Bursary (which is means tested and non-repayable). The SFE Tuition Fee Loan is paid direct to the University whereas the SFE Maintenance Loan is paid direct to the student. Most students find that they have a significant shortfall in their living and maintenance costs and will rely on vacation jobs, savings, or family support to cover this. This shortfall in finances becomes particularly significant in Years 5 and 6.
For Clinical Students there are important differences, particularly in the number of weeks of study per year, and a change in the funding arrangement for Years 5 and 6. Because the course is undertaken for the majority of the year, there is almost no opportunity for vacation jobs to generate income. It also means that maintenance costs increase significantly, from an estimated £6,500 per year in years 1-3 to an estimated £11,000 – £15,000 per year in years 4-6.
In Year 4, the SFE maintenance loan and the SFE tuition fee loan continue.
In Years 5 and 6, the NHS Bursary is available to eligible students. This covers a non-means tested grant of £1,000 per year; a means-tested maintenance bursary based on household income; and students can apply for a lower Maintenance Loan from SFE.
If you’re eligible for an NHS Bursary, the NHS pays your standard tuition fees.
The NHS Bursary does not have to be paid back. If you’re not eligible for an NHS Bursary you may still be eligible for student finance.
You may be eligible for a means-tested Cambridge Bursary.
The rules are slightly different for Graduate Course students, so check the relevant website.
The funding options available depend on numerous factors including: where you are domiciled, the year you started your course, any previous higher education, your age, your domestic / personal status, and your household income. The complexity of this is beyond the scope of these FAQs so check the relevant website.
There are three key organisations that provide funding for medical students:
- Student Loans Company (SLC), which administers SFE financial support in the form of variable tuition fee loans, means-tested maintenance loans, and other forms of financial support including the disabled students‘ allowance and travel grants.
- The University, which administers access to hardship funds, scholarships, grants and bursaries. Individual Colleges also have funds and grants available. This is very variable, so ask your Tutor or Tutorial Office.
- NHS which administers tuition fee bursaries; universal, non-means-tested grants for maintenance; means-tested grants for maintenance; NHS hardship grants; and other forms of financial support including childcare allowance and practice placement expenses.
Undergraduates can apply for an NHS bursary from the fifth year of a five- or six-year course (the different rules for CGC students are explained on the relevant website). Before then, they should apply to Student Finance England each year for a student loan for tuition fees and living costs. To be eligible to receive support from Student Finance England you must be English domiciled.
Colleges are responsible for administering student finances including the NHS Bursary Scheme. You should therefore always discuss financial concerns with your Tutorial Office or Tutor. They will also be able to advise on any College-specific bursaries and grants.
You will find further useful information on MedEd under Course Information – Student Finances, and also via ClinSoc.
Will my College help to meet the shortfall between income and expenditure?
Colleges acknowledge the financial difficulties that many students will have and because of this some Colleges have means-tested grants or hardship funds. The provision of these is variable between different Colleges and so you should discuss this with your Tutor. The University Hardship Funds (see below) will usually expect you to have approached your College for financial help before you apply to them.
Does the Clinical School have funds available to help students in financial difficulty?
Unfortunately not. However, there are various other grants and hardship funds, as detailed below.
What are the University Hardship Funds?
There are several funds as detailed here. It is expected that students will have approached their College for financial help first and also considered other possible options. Eligible UK students should ensure that they are in receipt of SFE tuition and maintenance loans.
The Undergraduate Hardship Fund (the Bell Abbott and Barnes Funds) is for undergraduate students including clinical medical students. It is intended for those in financial difficulties particularly when the hardship is unexpected. The maximum grant per year is £2,000 although most grants are between £100 – £1,000.
You should discuss your situation in detail with your Tutor, as the application is made by your Tutor on your behalf.
There is an application deadline each term (the Division of Term), and late applications will be considered the following term.
Further information is available here https://www.cambridgestudents.cam.ac.uk/fees-and-funding/financial-assistance/bell-abbott-and-barnes-funds
The Postgraduate Hardship Fund is for postgraduate students including medical students on the MB/PhD programme during their intercalated PhD.
This is funded by the University and by Trust Fund donations to help students in financial difficulty, so that they can continue their studies. Sufficient funding will need to have been in place at the start of the course, so the fund only supports students where the financial hardship was unforeseen. It is assumed that students will have explored other loan options first. You should discuss any application with your Tutor, who will make a supporting statement.
If successful, awards of up to £2,000 per academic year may be made, for help with maintenance and rental costs.
Further details and how to apply are available here https://www.cambridgestudents.cam.ac.uk/fees-and-funding/financial-assistance/postgraduate-hardship-funding
The Student Hardship Loan Fund can make interest-free loans to students experiencing unexpected financial hardship. This loan is paid back after completion of your course under an agreed schedule of payments. The application is made via your College so you should discuss this with your Tutor.
It is expected that students will have explored other options including: University Hardship Funds, financial support from College, remission of fees (see https://www.student-registry.admin.cam.ac.uk/files/guidance_notes_-_fee_remission_202021.pdf), Student Loan Companies etc.
Further details are available here:
The Sheikh Family Bursary will consider applications from undergraduate Muslim home students who are experiencing financial hardship, especially when this is unexpected. Grants of up to £2,000 per year may be made. Further details are available here: https://www.cambridgestudents.cam.ac.uk/fees-and-funding/financial-assistance/sheikh-family-bursaries.
Can I get financial help with medical costs?
The Medical Support Fund (Crane’s Charity) can provide financial support to students where there is significant financial need. There are clear eligibility criteria explained with other details here:
The Crane’s Charity can help with treatment for medical, surgical, and psychiatric illness, and for injuries resulting from accidents. It will only do so when treatment is not readily obtainable under the NHS and so will not usually cover private treatments. It will also consider help with associated costs such as appropriate travel costs or convalescent costs.
It will not usually cover spectacles, contact lenses, ordinary dental treatment, or treatment outside the UK.
Diagnostic assessments for autism and ADHD may be supported, but not usually for dyslexia.
You should speak to your Tutor and carefully check the link above if you are considering applying.
Can I get financial help with diagnostic assessments for Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs)?
You should ask your GP about the availability of NHS assessment clinics e.g. for ADHD. Unfortunately, the waiting time for such clinics is usually long. If you are referred to an NHS clinic, this needs to be done by your GP and cannot be done by the Disability Resource Centre.
Due to the long waiting lists and limited provision of NHS diagnostic assessment clinics, many such assessments are made privately. The University has a Specific Learning Difficulty Team who can be contacted on SpLD@admin.cam.ac.uk for advice.
These Educational Assessments currently cost about £425.
Many Colleges will help to cover this cost, so you should discuss this with your Tutor.
The Crane’s Charity (see above) may help where there is financial difficulty. The Crane’s Charity will consider help with assessments for autism and ADHD, but not usually with assessments for dyslexia.
Is financial help available during intermission?
If you expect to experience extreme financial hardship during a period of intermission and have no other financial support, then you can apply to the Special Hardship Fund. You should usually apply at the start of an intermission period. Funds of up to £3,350 are currently available. Further details are available here: https://www.cambridgestudents.cam.ac.uk/fees-and-funding/financial-assistance/special-hardship-fund.
If I am commuting to a regional placement where accommodation is provided, can I be refunded the accommodation cost to help cover my travel costs?
Unfortunately, this is not possible. The accommodation cost is part of the tariff agreed with the regional hospital and therefore cannot be reclaimed. See also below regarding travel expenses.
Can I claim travel expenses?
Approved travel expenses will be reimbursed. The process is explained in detail on MedEd under Course Information – Travel Expenses.
Travel for welfare reasons can be funded through College.
Travel expenses for conferences can be claimed through the SSC Conference Travel bursary. Students are eligible for up to £100 for attendance at one conference once per financial year. Up to £200 can be claimed once per financial year for accommodation, registration and poster printing costs. Further information can be found on MedEd.
Can I receive financial help with Elective costs?
Some students will receive financial support from their College to help fund their Elective.
The Clinical School has no funds to help with Elective costs.
The Medical Schools Council has produced a list of possible Elective funds here:
The Royal Medical Benevolent Fund has produced a list of possible Elective funds here:
What other financial support is provided by the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF)?
The RMBF supports medical students as well as doctors if they are facing serious unexpected financial difficulty due to illness, bereavement, disability, or injury. They also have a dedicated student financial advisor. To be eligible you must be in your final 2 years; have a serious risk of failing to qualify because of financial difficulty; and intend to work in the UK after qualification. Their grants can cover essential living expenses but not tuition costs. Further details are available here:
What support is provided by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries?
The Worshipful Company of Apothecaries (see https://www.apothecaries.org) has two funds available for students who are experiencing severe financial difficulty. An individual cannot receive an award from both funds.
The Apothecaries Financial Hardship Grant is available for students in their final two years where financial hardship might prevent them from completing their studies. The charity won’t support a student needing to retake a year due to exam failure. A Medical School can nominate up to three students but typically one award per school will be made. These are usually in the region of £1,500. The awards are made before the start of the academic year. The application deadline is usually in June and the grants are made in August each year.
The Apothecaries Emergency Grant is also available to students in their final two years of study. Each Medical School can nominate one student per financial year and the application is made by the Medical School on behalf of the student. The application can be made at any time during the financial year, whereas the Financial Hardship Grants are only awarded in August each year. The Emergency Grant is for where there is an urgent immediate need that cannot wait until the next Financial Hardship Grant application round. The grant is made for a specific requested amount for a justified reason, so is not usually available for general living expenses.
The Master’s Fund at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries also supports medical students at risk of leaving education due to financial hardship.
Are there any other sources for financial support available?
The Victoria Foundation supports widening participation in medicine by awarding Toolkit Grants and Elective Bursaries of ~£500 to over 50 medical students nationally each year from lower socio-economic backgrounds to help cover the cost of textbooks, study materials, medical equipment and travel to hospital or elective placements. TVF does not award grants towards tuition fees. Further information can be found on the Victoria Foundation website.
Am I permitted to undertake paid work during my Clinical Course?
We would of course prefer it if students did not have to do paid work, so that you can focus on your studies and have adequate time for leisure activities and relaxation. However, we also recognise the reality that many clinical students do paid work because of your difficult financial situation. We have recently agreed with central University that clinical students (including graduate students in all four years of the course) will now be under the same conditions as postgraduate students: you will be permitted to work for up to 10h per week. You need to discuss this with your College Tutor or Clinical Director of Studies in advance of taking up the work. We would strongly discourage students from taking paid work if you are struggling academically, particularly if you are studying for exam re-takes. In line with rules for postgraduate students, work must be relevant to academic life/clinical practice, such as college supervisions or working as a health care assistant, so that this complements, rather than detracts from, your studies; or can be outreach work undertaken on behalf of the university. For further details, please see: UCam-working-and-studying.
Fitness to Practise
What is Fitness to Practise (FTP)?
Doctors should make the care of their patients their first concern. They must be competent, keep their knowledge and skills up to date, establish and maintain good relationships with patients and colleagues, be honest and trustworthy, and act with integrity and within the law.
A doctor who does these things is fit to practise.
How does FTP Relate to the General Medical Council (GMC)?
The GMC is responsible for the regulation of doctors in the UK. Only those who hold a GMC licence to practise can work as doctors in the UK. If the GMC thinks that a doctor is not fit to practise, then their ultimate sanction is to recommend removal of that doctor’s licence to practise.
What Circumstances Might Lead to an FTP Referral?
Any person can refer any doctor to the GMC if they are concerned that the doctor is not fit to practise for any reason. Similarly, any person can refer a medical student to the University of Cambridge’s FTP Committee if they are concerned that the student is not fit to practise for any reason.
The commonest reasons that medical students are referred to the FTP Committee are dishonesty, unsuitable behaviours, and persistent unreliability. These are things which, if exhibited by a doctor, would undermine the public’s trust in the profession.
Who Sits on the FTP Committee, the FPT Panel and the FTP Adjudication Panel?
The FTP Committee comprises three people: the Chair (who must be medically qualified and is currently Dr Firth), a medically qualified member of the Clinical School, and a person appointed by the School of Biological Sciences.
The FTP Panel is a minimum of 12 people, at least six from the Clinical School and at least six from the School of Biological Sciences. Members can be asked to act as investigators by the FTP Committee, or to be members of an FTP Adjudication Panel.
An FTP Adjudication Panel has three members: a Chair who must be medically qualified and two other members, all drawn from the FTP Panel. An Adjudication Panel is formed whenever a case is referred by the FTP Committee, which only happens if the FTP Committee feels that a student is unfit to remain on the medical student register.
Could Health Problems, Including Mental Health Problems, Lead to an FTP Referral?
Many students are concerned that mental health problems will automatically lead to an FTP referral, but this is not the case. Health problems could lead to an FTP referral if they result in issues such as dishonesty, unsuitable behaviours, or persistent unreliability.
It is important to stress that having a health problem on its own does not render a doctor or medical student unfit to practise, providing they have insight into their condition and take appropriate action if it starts to impact adversely on their behaviour or performance. This could include seeking appropriate help, complying with treatment, and informing the relevant people if they are unfit to work.
How Would I Know if I Have Been Referred to FTP?
Most referrals are made by College Directors of Studies, Directors of Clinical Studies, or by the Clinical Dean. It is generally expected that whoever makes the referral will have spoken to the student and explained that they are referring them to FTP, and why. On occasion (eg when a student is referred by someone who is not a College or Clinical School officer), a student may be referred without their knowledge. On receiving a referral, the Secretary of the FTP Committee writes to the student to say that they have been referred to FTP and explain what will happen.
What is the Typical Process after Referral?
All referrals are considered by the FTP Committee. In most cases they will decide that an investigation is required and appoint an investigator from the FTP Panel (see above). The investigator will interview the person who has made the referral, the student who has been referred, and any other relevant parties. The student who has been referred will be shown the written accounts given by others and given the opportunity to comment on matters of fact if they wish to do so. The aim is to allow everyone interviewed the opportunity to make clear statements of their understanding of the relevant issues, and for the student to comment on these. At no time in the process are the student and/or others interviewed able to cross-examine each other. The FTP Committee considers the investigator’s report and decides what to do, making any judgements required on the balance of probability.
How Long Does the FTP Process Take?
It depends on how many people need to be interviewed and their availability. In a straightforward case the process can be concluded in 4-6 weeks. It can take considerably longer in complex cases where the student and/or witnesses require interviews to be delayed, and/or where the FTP Committee require the student to undergo independent specialist evaluation to inform their decision making.
Is the FTP Process Like a Court of Law?
No. If any person feels that they have been the victim of a crime, then they should report the matter to the police. The FTP process does not allow cross-examination of defendant or witnesses. Parties involved in the FTP process are not legally represented (a student may be represented by someone who is legally qualified, but they would not be acting in a legal capacity). There is no jury to deliver a verdict.
What Sanctions can the FTP Committee Impose?
The possible sanctions range from:
- No action – the student continues the course in the same way as any other student; to
- Giving the student a warning and/or imposing conditions. These might be the requirement for enhanced monitoring, where the FTP Committee would require regular reports from placement leads, College and/or Welfare; to
- Referral to an FTP Adjudication Panel (see above) with a recommendation that they are not fit to be a medical student and should be permanently removed from the course.
Does the FTP Committee Have the Power to Suspend a Student from the Course?
Yes, the Chair of the FTP Committee can provisionally suspend a student from the medical student register (and therefore stop them from attending the professional elements of the course) at any time. This action is only taken when allowing the student to remain on the course whilst the FTP process was ongoing would put patients or colleagues at risk.
What Does an FTP Adjudication Panel do, and what Sanctions can it Impose?
An FTP Adjudication Panel hears accounts from and can question the Investigator, the student who has been referred, the Chair of the FTP Committee, and any other person they think relevant.
Possible sanctions range from:
- No action – the student continues the course in the same way as any other student; to
- Giving the student a warning and/or imposing conditions. These might be the requirement for enhanced monitoring, where the FTP Adjudication Panel would require regular reports from placement leads, College, and/or Welfare; to
- Declaring that the medical student is unfit to practise and that their name should be permanently removed from the medical student register.
If I Have Been Subject to an FTP Investigation, what Happens on Qualification?
Medical Schools are not allowed to graduate students who are not fit to practise. Assuming that any FTP matter has been dealt with and the FTP Committee is content that the student can be allowed to graduate, then in the final year of the course all students who wish to practise in the UK need to make an application to the GMC for provisional registration. The Clinical School is asked to notify the GMC of all those students who have been referred to FTP. These students are asked to make early applications, giving details of the FTP concerns and how these have been dealt with. The Clinical School supports students in making these applications and it is very rare indeed for a student to be denied provisional registration.
In 2017 (the last year on which they have published data), the GMC reported that 7,144 students applied for registration. 938 (13.1%) declared an FTP issue, 70% of which were health issues. The GMC opened an investigation in 203 (2.8%), and 7 (0.1%) were refused registration.
Does an FTP Investigation Need to be Stated on my UKFP Application, even if no Sanctions were Imposed?
Yes, but this information is not known to those involved in the ranking process. It is shared with the Post-Graduate Dean of the Deanery where the student does their Foundation Years. This helps to facilitate any further support, if necessary.
Does a Medical Student FTP Investigation need to be Stated on Job Application Forms after Foundation Years?
The standard NHS job application form does not require this. It asks if – as a doctor – applicants are subject to any FTP investigations or proceedings, or had any sanctions imposed by the GMC or other regulatory bodies, but it does not ask about FTP matters as a medical student. It is always essential to read the questions on application forms carefully in case the wording differs, and to answer all questions truthfully and honestly. Failure to do so might itself be an FTP issue.
What is it?
The Health Passport is designed for medical students who have a long-term health condition that could impact on their ability to learn and study effectively. The focus is to empower students to help manage their own condition and share information with those who may need to know about it. Students are able to take and discuss their Health Passport with whoever they so choose, for example placement supervisors or teaching leads. The Health Passport has been designed and is supported by those with long-term conditions, educators, the General Medical Council and the Medical Schools Council. It aims to remove or reduce obstacles and enable more effective learning for the student. It can also be used as a junior doctor.
How do I get a Health passport?
Students who have a long-term health condition and would like a Health Passport should complete the Health Passport and send to email@example.com for review. Health Passports will need to be approved and signed off by a member of the Welfare Team, and a PDF version returned to the student before it can be used.
What sort of information should I include?
This is entirely up to you and will depend on your circumstances and the things that you have difficulty with. Examples might include that you have a unilateral deafness and need to be able to lipread, or that you may need to sit down during bedside teaching due to fatigue. If you are unsure what to include, then please discuss this with Welfare.
Is it compulsory?
No, it is entirely optional, but if you have a chronic health condition, we encourage you to complete one as it makes information sharing more straight-forward and can help create a supportive educational environment.
How can I get a badge for my lanyard?
If you would like a lanyard insert summarising the information on your Health Passport please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, this needs to be approved and signed off by a member of the Welfare Team.
What do I do if my health changes?
If you have a Health Passport and your circumstances have changed, please contact the Welfare Team to arrange for your Health Passport to be amended.
I would like to give some feedback – how do I go about it?
We would appreciate feedback from students on their experiences using the Health Passport. Please go to the following link to complete a short anonymous survey: https://forms.gle/SztdkNP5iKecj5UPA
Can you summarise the overall process?
Please refer to the Student Health Passport Flowchart.
What is intermission?
This is a process whereby a student can have an approved break from their studies, for example to undergo medical treatment, and then resume the course at an agreed time.
What are the possible reasons?
These will vary on an individual basis, and we will consider all such requests. Typical reasons would include medical (either physical or mental health); welfare (e.g. bereavement or family issues); or exam failure.
Why might exam failure require intermission?
There are usually two sittings for an exam: the main scheduled sitting and a single resit. If a student defers taking exams until the resit date and then fails; or fails both sittings and is granted approval by Faculty Board for an exceptional third attempt, then there is no further sitting in that academic year. In either of these situations the student would need to take a year out and rejoin the following year in order to sit the exam and then continue the course if they pass.
What is the procedure if I wish to intermit?
You should discuss your circumstances with both your Clinical DoS and with Welfare (email@example.com), as the support of both is required. Welfare will discuss the situation with you and then usually present this at a Deanery meeting. The ultimate decision is that of the Clinical Dean.
What happens next?
If the Clinical Dean agrees, and you have the support of your Clinical DoS, then Welfare will complete an Intermission Proforma which specifies the circumstances and conditions of the intermission. You receive a copy of this, and it is circulated to your Senior Tutor, Tutorial Office, Clinical DoS, the Clinical Dean, Welfare, and the relevant administrative staff at the Clinical School who need to make the arrangements.
What is the implication for fees?
The Clinical School is not directly involved in your fees, and you should discuss this with your Tutorial Office.
What happens to my student loan / NHS bursary if I intermit?
Intermitting often means students will need to take longer than 6 years of term time to complete the course. This clearly has financial implications, in terms of extra fees and living costs. It may also affect access to funding – eg for English students on the standard course, this is 4 years student finance and 2 years NHS bursary. We have noticed occasional changes with how the student finance system deals with students taking longer than 6 years. Please check with your college what current implications are for funding when you are considering intermission.
When would I be expected to rejoin the course?
The best time to rejoin the course will be discussed and decided on an individual basis.
Students are not usually required to repeat placements that have been satisfactorily completed and signed off, so many intermitting students will rejoin the course partway through the academic year, to do the placements that have not yet been completed. Sometimes an informal “shadowing” placement will be arranged for a couple of weeks before starting to gain confidence before starting properly.
In some situations, a student may choose to restart at the beginning of the year and redo placements that have previously been signed off, to consolidate their learning. Note that there may be fee implications for doing this, and you should discuss this with your college.
What happens when I rejoin the course?
Welfare will usually arrange a Zoom with students before they rejoin the course to discuss any issues and check that all arrangements are in place. This would include the possibility of an informal placement, or an Occupational Health assessment, if either was felt necessary. If students feel that their communication skills or practical skills have become rusty during intermission, then extra CCS or Clinical Skills input can be arranged. Students can liaise directly with the relevant team.
Would I need to repeat exams that have already been passed?
This would not usually be expected, although a student would be expected to fully engage with the course on return, even if they are repeating parts of the course.
Would I need an Occupational Health assessment?
If you are intermitting for health reasons then you would usually be required to have an OH assessment before rejoining the course, to ensure that you are well enough to do so. This would be made clear at the point of intermission and is arranged through your College.
Can I intermit more than once?
Regulations specify that the 6-year course should be completed within 8 years (for standard course students), so in theory you could intermit twice. A situation such as this would require careful discussion with your Clinical DoS and the Clinical School. Any extension beyond 8 years would require an application to Faculty Board, and permission might not be granted.
What should I do during intermission?
This will depend on the time available, as well as the reasons for intermission. The priority will always be to tackle any underlying reasons, eg taking appropriate steps to improve your health if this was the reason, as this will maximise the likelihood of a successful return to the course. Many students will consider working as an HCA, volunteering or tutoring. University regulations usually prevent you from working in a University or College setting during intermission and we advise that you discuss any work plans with your Clinical DoS.
Can I study part-time?
As you know, you need to pass all of your placements before you take the end of year exams. Therefore you need to attend and fully engage with all aspects of the clinical course. If you are not able to do this due to illness, please contact your Clinical Director of Studies or the Welfare Team to discuss intermission.
Junior doctors can apply to work less than full-time during their training. This option is not open to clinical students except in exceptional circumstances and complex situations. It is important to say that this is only available as a reasonable adjustment for a registered disability, when there is no other option. This is not available for situations such as where a student is struggling to make up placement time after a period of illness or to ease preparation for exam resits.
If a student and their College think that their situation may merit less than full-time study, they should discuss this with the Clinical Dean or the Student Academic Support Lead. For the case to move forwards, formal approval would then need to be given by both the Clinical School Faculty Board and the central university Examination Access and Mitigation Committee (EAMC). This process takes a couple of months, and it is important that students remain on the course full-time until any approval is given.
If I don’t want to intermit, can I take some time out and catch up later?
Due to the rhythm of the academic year and the need to pass all of your placements before you take the end of year exams, you need to attend and fully engage with all aspects of the course. If you are not able to do this due to illness, please contact your Clinical Director of Studies or the Welfare Team to discuss intermission.
The maximum period of flexible discretionary leave is 3 days (see FAQ). Any longer absences will need to be discussed with your Year Lead at the earliest opportunity. Junior doctors can take ‘out-of-programme’ periods at various points during their training, but this option is not open to clinical students.
Medical & Veterinary Student Progress Panel
What is the Medical Veterinary Students Progress Panel ?
The Medical and Veterinary Student Progress Panel (MVSPP) backs up the College tutorial and pastoral system by maintaining a general overview of medical and veterinary student progression throughout both the preclinical and clinical course.
What situations need to be considered by MVSPP?
MVSPP meets termly and monitors the cases of students who for one reason or another may be having problems with the course. This may be because of illness, personal difficulties or due to repeated examination failures. All clinical students who intermit are automatically on the list for consideration by MVSPP, but there is rarely detailed discussion about these students.
Who is on the Panel?
The Panel consists of senior members of the Faculty of Biology, School of Clinical Medicine and Department of Veterinary Medicine together with College tutorial representatives.
How does it work?
In co-operation with Colleges, the Panel reviews student cases, with a view to offering advice and support for students who are encountering difficulties with the course. The panel will work with Colleges to ensure that students who have not achieved the required academic standard or are experiencing health or other personal problems receive appropriate support. The committee is not a disciplinary body, nor is it part of a Fitness to Practice process (see FAQ on Fitness to Practice for more information). Its basic remit is to try to ensure that students have a timely and, as far as possible trouble free progress through the course.
In the case of a request for an exceptional third exam attempt the Panel will recommend the College put a case forward to the Faculty Board (see FAQ) for consideration.
If I am a medical student, what do I need to do?
Your College will talk to you about submitting your name for discussion at MVSPP. This is usually by a brief email outlining any issues. You do not need to appear in person.
How do I find out more?
For further advice or guidance please contact Alison Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We hope the following information will help answer some of your questions on becoming a parent as a medical student and as a new parent returning to your medical studies after parental leave.
Are there increased risks during pregnancy as a medical student?
It is important to let your placement lead and the clinical school know that you are pregnant so that a risk assessment can be carried out and any reasonable adjustments made to enable you to continue your studies and examinations as well as attending your antenatal appointments.
We appreciate, particularly early in the pregnancy, you may not wish to disclose the pregnancy to anyone and in this case, please contact the Welfare team in confidence. If there is enough notice, it may be possible to rearrange placements to reduce time spent travelling.
Am I able to request time to attend antenatal appointments?
The Welfare team can issue an Absence Authorisation Card to enable you to attend all required appointments. This also applies to medical students whose partner is pregnant. See Absence Authorisation FAQ.
Is there any help with sitting exams while pregnant?
The Clinical School Reasonable Adjustments Panel can consider applications for reasonable adjustments to support you during your exams such as ensuring that you are able to sit down in between OSCE stations (please contact the Assessment and Exams Team email@example.com) about this. You may also wish to ask your clinical DoS to submit a mitigating circumstance form if you think your exam preparation or performance may be affected.
What financial assistance is available?
Eligible students may be able to apply for an NHS bursary maternity award. This is a maternity award for up to 12 months for maternity leave if this is agreed in advance with your university. The award usually includes all elements of your existing award except any relating to actual attendance on the course such as travel. This bursary can also help with childcare costs upon return to studies, too. The BUR101W(MAT) form to receive this bursary needs to be completed by your College Bursary.
Student Finance England may offer one additional year if needed due to pregnancy, but this is decided on an individual basis.
How does intermission work in relation to pregnancy?
Most students who are pregnant will intermit, i.e., take a year away from the course. Please see Intermission FAQs. The time of intermission commencement will likely be dictated by the estimated date of delivery but it is important to discuss this in advance with Welfare to allow flexibility and to fit in with your preference.
Do I have to return full-time?
There is no provision to return less than full time as a student. Once you commence Foundation posts, however, these could be less than full time.
What financial support is available on returning to the clinical course after the birth?
The most likely scenario is that you will return to the course after intermitting for 12 months. A BUR101R (MAT) needs to be completed by your college bursary.
If you return fulltime, you are eligible for a childcare grant which is paid on top of your other student finance but does not have be paid back.
There is also an allowance called the Parents Learning Allowance which is paid on top of other student finances and does not have to be paid back.
You may be eligible to apply for Child Benefit.
You may be eligible for further support from the University:
What childcare options are available?
You may wish to apply for a place at one of the four nurseries managed on behalf of University: Application process | Childcare Office (cam.ac.uk)
Your college may also be able to support you: College support for student parents | Childcare Office (cam.ac.uk)
What support is there for breast feeding?
It is important to discuss with your cDoS, Placement lead or Welfare regarding how you wish to return, depending on childcare arrangements. If it is your preference, we will try to ensure placements are near to where you live and any nursery you may choose to use. It is important to let us know well in advance if that is your preference, as it is difficult to move placements once they are allocated. Please discuss with us if you are breast feeding or expressing so that we can support you in this. Each Trust should have a policy supporting this which includes protecting pregnant workers and new mothers.
What do I do if I have evening supervisions/out-of-hours shifts?
These are usually one off and are an important part of your training so with advance notice, the clinical school expects you to be able to attend. It is important to speak to your clinical DoS to discuss supporting you to do so.
What do I do if my child has an important event during scheduled learning activities?
Please see Flexible Discretionary Leave FAQs.
What do I do if my child is sick?
See Absence from the course FAQ.
What happens if there is a stillbirth?
Students are also entitled to the maternity support award if their baby is stillborn or dies after birth.
What is the situation if I am in my Foundation post?
If you are a Foundation Programme Doctor, you are eligible to apply for maternity leave and if required can submit a request to your educational supervisor to work less than full time. If you have 12 months continuous service with one or more NHS employers at the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and you have notified your intention to return to work with the NHS, you are entitled to: 8 weeks full pay, less any Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA), 18 weeks half pay plus any SMP or MA (providing the total does not exceed full pay), 13 weeks SMP or MA and 13 weeks unpaid leave.
What is the situation for medical students whose partners are pregnant?
If your partner is in receipt of the maintenance grant element of the NHS Bursary, you are eligible for up to four weeks of authorised leave to provide support to a mother and child during and after childbirth or adoption. This includes biological fathers, adoptive fathers, nominated carers and partners. Please ensure you discuss this with Welfare well in advance of the expected arrival to agree the best option as you become a parent while also fulfilling requirements including exams as a medical student. The four 4 weeks authorised leave can be taken as a block or can be split. It is expected that authorised absence for maternity support is to be taken within a six-month period of the child arriving.
Is it possible to speak to another medical student mentor?
If you would find it helpful to speak with another student who is currently pregnant or has returned to the course after childbirth or adoption, please speak with Welfare and we will arrange this.
Pastoral Advisor Scheme
What is the Pastoral Advisor Scheme?
This is a support system which complements the support elsewhere in Cambridge, such as Colleges, the Welfare Team or from other agencies such as the University Counselling Service. Students can seek help or guidance from any Pastoral Advisor at any stage during their clinical course. The list of Pastoral Advisors can be accessed through the MedEd Welfare page. Please note that this is a password protected host site for Cambridge University staff and students.
Who are the Pastoral Advisors?
They are all experienced clinicians, typically either Consultants or GPs. They are given guidance by the Welfare Team and their appointment has to be approved by the Clinical School. They understand the course with its attendant pressures, the structure of medical careers and have the wisdom that life experience brings. Students often appreciate the fact that they are “outside the system”, in the sense that they are not part of the core Deanery Team.
What sort of things can I discuss?
If you are concerned about something, then it is reasonable to discuss it with your Pastoral Advisor. Typical things that students discuss include mental or physical health problems, relationship issues, family problems or family health concerns, needing time off, juggling commitments, exam worries or exam resits, electives, applying for Foundation Posts, careers advice, doubts about pursuing a career in medicine, concerns about colleagues etc.
If the Pastoral Advisor is unsure how to help you, they can seek help from other colleagues such as Welfare or the Assessment and Exam Team. In many situations (eg issues relating to your health), their role may be to signpost you to the appropriate source of help.
Can a Pastoral Advisor give me medical advice?
No, the Pastoral Advisor cannot act as your doctor and they are not trained counsellors. It is essential that you are registered with a GP, and professional counselling is available elsewhere if it is needed.
Is the advice confidential?
Whatever you discuss with your Pastoral Advisor is confidential, unless you consent to disclosure, or unless the Pastoral Advisor becomes aware of something which the GMC would require them to disclose. For example, this could include matters such as risks to your safety, or the safety of your colleagues or patients.
What happens when I am on a regional attachment?
You will still have access to the pastoral advisor pool, and in practice the contact is typically by email or Zoom, so being away should not affect this.
Can I request to have placements in specific places?
Yes, if there is a valid reason. We cannot guarantee that this will be possible, but we do consider all requests fairly.
Can I be in Cambridge for all my placements?
In general, this is not possible. Teaching Hospitals and Regional Hospitals are very different environments for patients and healthcare staff, and provide very different learning opportunities. Educationally, we consider it important that you should experience both. Balancing student numbers and placement availability is also extremely complicated.
For all these reasons, and due to limited placement capacity, students are not able to have all their placements at Cambridge except in very exceptional situations.
What do I do if I have a valid placement request?
In February / March, you will be sent a questionnaire to complete to indicate any issues that we need to be aware of in relation to your placements. Once you have submitted this information, your request will be discussed with the Welfare team (as discussed below), and significant welfare requests will be accommodated if at all possible.
How is the decision made?
Following completion of the placement questionnaire, the Welfare Team meet with the Admin Team to discuss all the requests that have been received for the upcoming academic year. We discuss and prioritise all the requests according to individual circumstances. This is then considered when allocating the placements. We aim to have Year 5 and Year 6 placements allocated by the end of June. Year 4 students will receive their allocations in August.
How are requests prioritised?
We categorise requests as high, medium or low priority depending on the situation.
Genuine health or welfare requests are given the highest priority, as you would expect.
We do consider sports-related requests, but these are given a lower priority. In Year 6 particularly, the demands of the course are such that recreational activities cannot usually be a priority.
We consider this system to be fair and workable. Unfortunately, because the number of requests generally exceeds what is logistically possible, we are usually unable to accommodate everyone, particularly those with lower priority requests.
Can I ask to be with a particular friend?
This cannot usually be accommodated, as it is impossible to take all such requests into account. We do appreciate that this can be important for regional placements but working with a new team on a professional basis is also an important skill to learn. In your future careers you will be unable to choose who you work with.
If there is a particular valid reason why you do not wish to be with another student, then please let us know.
Is there a deadline for making a request?
The questionnaire will have a deadline for submission which is usually mid-March.
Once the placements have been arranged it is extremely complicated to make adjustments, as placements are usually full and apparently “simple swaps” usually have significant knock-on effects.
We will always consider any such “late requests”, but there is no guarantee that we can accommodate them. We apply the same prioritisation to these late requests, so significant health or welfare reasons are most likely to succeed.
What do I do if I need a placement change after the allocations have been made?
If you have a genuine health or welfare need, then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this.
Requests for other reasons are less likely to be possible as the placements are usually full, particularly at Cambridge.
What is the system for GP placements?
The process is essentially the same, but we will involve our GP Administrator. Again, we consider all such requests in a fair manner, but cannot guarantee to make all the changes requested.
Can I request en-suite accommodation on regional placements?
If you have a valid medical reason for needing en-suite accommodation, we will prioritise this. We will take requests for religious reasons into account as well but cannot always manage this. The accommodation available at different regional hospitals inevitably varies, and so we cannot guarantee en-suite facilities even if you feel you have a valid request.
Pre-allocation Based on Personal Circumstances
What is pre-allocation?
In certain circumstances, an applicant may be allocated to a Foundation School before the general allocation occurs. There are very specific circumstances where this is permitted, and such an application will only be considered if the correct evidence and documentation is produced, and this is done within the specified timeframe. The general principle is that you must demonstrate why you need to be in a particular geographical location.
You should follow the guidance given during R+I week. It is also essential that you carefully follow the guidance on the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO) website https://foundationprogramme.nhs.uk where you will find a dedicated section on pre-allocation (look under Resources – Forms and Guidance).
What are the criteria for pre-allocation?
There are specific criteria considered under the Personal Circumstances rules. In all cases you must refer to the details on UKFPO website.
1. Being a parent or legal guardian of a child under 18. This doesn’t include if you are pregnant and don’t yet have any children.
2a. Being the primary carer for someone (usually your partner, sibling, or parent), who is disabled (as defined by the Equality Act 2010). This does not apply if you are part of a group of carers such as a family. You will be required to produce a care plan showing how you will combine the responsibility of a foundation doctor with that of a primary carer.
2b. Having significant caring responsibility for a family member, partner, or friend, but not being a primary carer.
3. Medical circumstances– see below
4. Unique circumstances– see below
5a. Educational circumstances – see below
5b. Widening participation – see below
Should I discuss this with the Clinical School?
If you are seriously considering pre-allocation, then the UKFPO recommends that you speak to your medical school. We advise that you discuss this with your Clinical DoS in the first instance. If you decide to go ahead with a pre-allocation request, then you should also have discussed it with the Clinical School, and this will usually be with Welfare unless another senior member of the Clinical School team already knows you well. Not all applications are successful, and having the required evidence at the point of application will increase your chance of success.
How does pre-allocation affect the rest of my application?
You must rank the Foundation School you wish to be pre-allocated to as first in your preferences.
You must still apply to UKFPO. The pre-allocation request is made as part of the initial application through Oriel. You must complete the relevant application form (depending on the criterion you choose) from the UKFPO website and upload this with all the required documentation as part of your initial Oriel application. You cannot submit further evidence later unless there are exceptional circumstances.
You must pass the SJT and meet the usual national allocation criteria.
You cannot link a pre-allocation request to another applicant.
Approval of pre-allocation is to a Foundation School and does not guarantee a specific rotation within the pre-allocated Foundation School.
You must follow the procedure as laid out in the UKFPO website.
Who needs to counter-sign my pre-allocation request?
All pre-allocation requests need to be counter-signed by a responsible person who can vouch for the information you have given. The appropriate person varies according to the criterion under which you are applying, and this is clearly explained on the UKFPO website, so check what applies in your case.
What supporting evidence needs to be provided?
This is described clearly on the UKFPO website, and you must refer to this for details. The required evidence varies according to the criterion under which you are applying.
What sort of conditions count for medical circumstances?
You must demonstrate that your medical condition or disability requires follow-up in your desired location, and that this is an absolute requirement. Most medical conditions can be followed up in any location and therefore would not count. A qualifying example might be complex surgery requiring input from a specialist surgical team, or multiple medical problems requiring careful interaction and liaison between different medical teams. Mental health problems will often not qualify, as mental health support is available in most locations. However, if you require specific input and support from peers, family or friends who are in a particular location then this would be taken into account but is not a guarantee of success. In this situation, it is imperative that the professional supportive statements make this quite clear – eg, “the family /community / peer support is part of the ongoing treatment and can only be provided in this area, and it would be detrimental to health to change this…”.
It is the personal aspects here that are crucial.
What medical evidence do I need to provide?
Refer to UKFPO website. You will need a report from your medical specialist or Occupational Health. You need to demonstrate very clear reasons in your application why you need to be in a particular location. You should provide letters of support from any other relevant professionals as well as your specialist or Occupational Health: e.g., GP, therapist, Disability Resource Centre etc. In their letter they must emphasise why you cannot receive this support elsewhere, as well as explaining the medical condition and nature of your treatment. It is an absolute requirement that the care needs to be delivered in the particular geographical area.
What would count as “unique circumstances”?
This criterion is not frequently used. It includes things such as being a national-level athlete where you need to be in a particular location for training; being a member of the armed forces reserves with training requirements; or living in accommodation that has been adapted to support your needs (if you don’t qualify already on health grounds).
What are “educational circumstances”?
If a student has needed support because they have struggled educationally, they may be eligible for pre-allocation to their local Foundation School so that ongoing support can be maintained. In order to be considered under this criterion, the student must have been awarded the bottom decile score (ie 34), and required to repeat a clinical year of medical school for educational purposes and be a student or graduate of a UK / ROI medical school. You need to explain why pre-allocation would allow you to manage Foundation Training more effectively, e.g., by continuing to access support from family, mentors, or others. Up to 5 students from each medical school can be considered under this criterion each year.
What are Widening Participation Initiatives?
In many cases, students will enter medical school through a Widening Participation or Widening Access initiative. The example quoted on the UKFP website is entry via a Gateway Course, but Cambridge doesn’t offer Gateway Courses for medicine. However, there are other Widening Participation Schemes that are relevant. The Clinical School doesn’t usually have access to your entry documentation, so in the first instance you should discuss this with your Clinical DoS. Your Tutorial Office should be able to confirm whether you entered via a Widening Participation Scheme if you are unsure.
Pre-allocation in this instance will be to either the vicinity of your family home, or the vicinity of your medical school, so that you have established support.
Your self-assessment statement on the application form needs to be counter-signed by a senior figure from the Clinical School. This will usually be either Welfare or the Clinical Dean, depending on who knows you best. They may need to liaise with your Clinical DoS first.
How is the decision made?
Applications are considered by a national panel. If they turn your request down, there is an appeals process. An appeal may not succeed, and you cannot usually submit further documentation at a later date unless there are exceptional circumstances.
What are the application deadlines?
These are stated on the UKFPO website. Search for UKFP High-level timeline.
It is essential that you start working on your application at an early stage so that you have time to collate the required evidence. Note that for Pre-allocation Based on Personal Circumstances, there is an earlier deadline than for normal applications.
Does the pre-allocation need to be to my local Foundation School?
In the case of medical circumstances, an assumption is usually made that you will be applying to your local Foundation School. This is because it is assumed that the follow-up or medical input is already in place in that area. If you are applying for pre-allocation to a Foundation School that is not local to your Clinical School, then you must explain why this is the case and provide evidence if possible.
With the other criteria, check the relevant section on the website.
What if I am unsure whether I would qualify?
We hope that these FAQs will help, but otherwise discuss this with your Clinical DoS or the Clinical School.
It some situations where you are unsure, it may be prudent to apply anyway, providing evidence, and let the panel decide.
If necessary, the Clinical School can discuss your circumstances with the East of England (or other relevant) Foundation School Director.
Where can I get further information?
This is available on the UKFPO website. Here you will find a checklist for applicants, guidance notes and the Application Form. The key dates for applicants are also on the UKFPO website.
You can contact the UPFPO for advice email@example.com
At the clinical school, we endeavour to embrace equality, diversity and inclusivity. We hope this FAQ helps with some of your queries, but if anything is unclear or you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact the welfare team.
Is there any flexibility regarding attending religious festivals during placement time?
Each student is granted three days of ‘Flexible Discretionary Leave’ per annum. Please note this is not extra holiday and you will need to make this curricular time up during annual leave or weekends. This leave may be requested for any reason eg family / religious / sporting events. If you are requesting absence on this basis, you will need to have your absence authorised in advance. See FAQ on absence from the course for further details and a link to the form which needs to be completed.
What shall I do if an assessment falls on a religious festival?
Please contact the exams and assessments team as early as possible as there may be some flexibility.
What shall I do if a compulsory teaching session falls on a religious festival?
Please contact your placement lead as early as possible as there may be some flexibility. Hopefully you can work together to find a solution.
How do I attend required prayers when I am on placement?
Unfortunately we cannot totally avoid any teaching that clashes with any observance requirements of any religion (indeed all doctors will work at some point in the week during their career). The timetabling is arranged to try to reduce the amount of clashes.
Community inclusion is equally important while on placement. You will find that most councils have a list of local worship communities. Once you know the times that you may wish to attend religious meetings, you could liaise in advance of the placement with the placement coordinator or Practice Manager if a GP placement to see if any arrangements can be made to enable you to attend.
Are prayer rooms available on GP placements?
It is likely that most GP practices would be able to support students having time to attend prayer meetings locally if requested in advance of the placement.
Are prayer rooms available on hospital placements?
Yes, all hospitals should have a space for prayer and worship. In some hospitals, this may be a multi-faith room for people of all faiths to use. In others, there may be additional spaces such as chapels and prayer rooms.
- Chapel, level 2. Also Christian worship on Sundays 11am. https://www.cuh.nhs.uk/our-services/chaplaincy/our-chapel/
- Muslim prayer room, in the chapel on level 2. Prayer mats and/or disposable tissue mats available. Congregational Dhuhr prayer at 1:15pm Also Friday prayer meetings from 1pm until 2pm. https://www.cuh.nhs.uk/our-services/chaplaincy/muslim-prayer/
Royal Papworth Hospital – https://royalpapworth.nhs.uk/application/files/5015/5800/0600/143695_Chaplaincy_introduction_for_patients_and_relatives_6pp_DL_RoyalPapworth_REV3.pdf; https://www.accessable.co.uk/royal-papworth-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust/royal-papworth-hospital/access-guides/chapel-and-multi-faith-room#:~:text=Access%20to%20the%20Chapel%20and,left%20before%20the%20hospital%20Restaurant.
- Chapel and multifaith room, ground floor just before restaurant.
- Muslim prayer space, right hand side of the chapel, with prayer mats, a Qibla locator and a copy of the Quran. Washing facilities are available in the foyer restroom.
- Chapel, ground floor. Various services (ex: Christian, Roman Catholic, Muslim) during the week.
- Muslim prayer space, inside chapel with washing facilities, prayer mats and a Qibla locator.
Ipswich Hospital – https://www.esneft.nhs.uk/your-visit/while-youre-with-us/support-and-advice/chaplaincy-and-spiritual-services/finding-the-chaplaincy-facilities/; https://www.accessable.co.uk/east-suffolk-and-north-essex-nhs-foundation-trust/ipswich-hospital/access-guides/chapel
- Chapel, North Zone of the hospital (access via North entrance).
- Muslim prayer room, adjacent to chapel. Prayer mats also available at rear of main chapel
Lister Hospital (Stevenage) – https://www.enherts-tr.nhs.uk/content/uploads/2019/10/c.-Spritual-and-Pastoral-Care-Team-Lister-reviewed-04.2019-v3-1.pdf; https://www.accessable.co.uk/east-and-north-hertfordshire-nhs-trust/lister-hospital/access-guides/chaplains-room#3e9cd18a-f3fc-d049-b807-62c85e0c7fc1
- Multifaith chapel, far end of main corridor past the restaurant. Various services (Roman Catholic, Muslim Jumuah, Jewish).
- Muslim prayer room, very end of main entrance corridor.
Bedford Hospital – Friday congregational prayer starting at 1-1:15pm
- Faith and Belief Room, ground floor on main corridor leading from Britannica Road.
Hinchingbrooke Hospital – https://www.nwangliaft.nhs.uk/our-hospitals/hinchingbrooke-hospital/chaplaincy/, https://www.accessable.co.uk/north-west-anglia-nhs-foundation-trust/hinchingbrooke-hospital/access-guides/chapel
- Chapel, ground floor. Roman Catholic mass on Wednesdays 4:30pm, Muslim Juma on Friday 1pm.
- Quiet garden, entrance at rear of chapel.
Peterborough City Hospital – https://www.accessable.co.uk/venues/faith-centre#091b369b-c1b5-e744-b65c-7e478ffc32d3
- Faith Centre, level 0 in core B. Follow signs for Diagnostic Imaging – Faith Centre is just past it.
- Chapel, at rear of Faith Centre.
- Prayer rooms, two private rooms inside Faith Centre on left.
- Private reflection room, inside Faith centre on right.
- Sacred Space, ground floor opposite X-ray unit. Sunday Christian service at 10am, Tuesday Roman Catholic mass at 4pm.
- Multi-faith prayer rooms, bottom of the Emerson Unit link corridor. Separate male and female prayer rooms, and separate male and female ablution rooms as well as toilets. Prayers at 1pm.
What is the advice for fasting during religious holidays?
Guidance adapted from https://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=29080
We understand that fasting is an integral part of religious life, discipline and experience in every faith. We want to make sure that we can be supportive of our students who fast but also want to ensure the safety of our students and of the patients in their care.
Quick tips for students on placement in Ramadan:
- Establish when Ramadan is approaching and let your placement leads and supervising consultants know that you will be fasting. Remember that as a student doctor, you have a duty to ensure that you are alert and able to enact your role safely.
- Try to be disciplined about your eating and sleeping habits when you are not fasting. Hydrate well during the night and at suhour (pre-dawn meal) and after iftar (evening meal) so that you do not get dehydrated while you are on placement/working. Severe dehydration can lead to people passing out and potentially hurting themselves and others.
- Think carefully about your personal time management, especially if attending functions with significant travel away from home, unless it is essential to your placement.
- Discuss with your Placement Lead the possibility of not having working lunches.
- Students who are ill, pregnant, have pre-existing medical conditions, or driving far distances should think very carefully and seek medical and spiritual advice before fasting at all.
Can I request en-suite accommodation on regional placements?
If you have a valid medical reason for needing en-suite accommodation, we will prioritise this. We will take requests for religious reasons into account as well, but cannot always manage this. The accommodation available at different regional hospitals inevitably varies, and so we cannot guarantee en-suite facilities even if you feel you have a valid request.
What can I do if I need to cover my forearms, in terms of being bare below the elbows?
Any full or three quarter length sleeves must not be loose or dangling. They must be able to be rolled or pulled back and kept securely in place during hand-washing and direct patient care activity.
Where, for religious reasons, members of staff wish to cover their forearms or wear a bracelet when not engaged in direct patient care, they must ensure that sleeves and bracelets can be pushed up the arm and secured in place for hand washing and direct patient care. Disposable over-sleeves, elasticated at the elbow and wrist, may be used but must be put on and discarded in exactly the same way as disposable gloves. Strict procedures for washing hands and wrists must still be observed.
For further information, please refer to the NHS Uniforms and Workwear policy.
Specific Learning Difficulties and Neurodiversity
If you have any questions about this, please see the FAQ on the Academic Support pages: https://vle.medschl.cam.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=1417
If you are a College tutor and do not have access to MedEd, please contact Dr Liz Hook (Student Academic Support lead) on firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Absence Authorisation Card
What is it?
This card gives authorisation for you to be absent from a placement to attend a health or welfare appointment such as an out-patient or GP appointment, therapy session or counselling appointment. In these situations, you show the card in advance to the relevant consultant or teaching lead, and they will grant you permission to be absent without you needing to give detailed or potentially awkward explanations.
How do I obtain one?
You need to contact email@example.com to discuss this with one of the Welfare team. If they agree then they will issue you with a signed card.
When would it be issued?
It is intended for students who have a need for repeated appointments for medical or welfare purposes. This would include a course of therapy, or ongoing follow-up for a chronic condition. It is not issued for one-off appointments, or for prolonged absence from the course.
How long is it valid for?
This will depend on the circumstances and will be decided by the issuer, but will typically be for 3, 6 or 12 months. On expiry it can be renewed after discussion with Welfare, if the need persists.
What if I am on a regional placement?
The card is still valid if you are on a regional attachment.
The Clinical School will pay for a return journey to Cambridge (by public transport, but not by taxi) to attend a valid appointment if you have a card. Fill in the normal Travel Expenses claim form on MedEd and annotate the form to indicate that you have a Student Absence Authorisation Card. Full details of submitting these are on the forms (to Year Admin if on a hospital placement, or to GPEG if on a GP placement).
Can it be used for longer term sick leave?
The card can only be used to attend specific appointments and cannot be used for sick leave, or for prolonged absence from the course. In this situation you should discuss your circumstances with Welfare.
If I have a virtual meeting during working hours can I book a room at the Clinical School?
Yes, if you would like a room booked for a virtual meeting, please contact SubDeansPA@medschl.cam.ac.uk.
University Counselling Service
What is the UCS?
This is a counselling service for Cambridge University students and College staff. It gives the opportunity to discuss personal issues, problems or difficult decisions with a trained counsellor who will offer support in a non-judgemental way. They will help you to explore your feelings or things that are troubling you. Many people will gain this support elsewhere, such as from their family, friends, College Tutor, College Counsellor, GP or from a religious leader, but it is often helpful to speak to someone with specific training who is not otherwise involved in your life.
The UCS has an excellent website https://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk and this also has useful self-help advice and links.
The UCS also offers ‘One at a Time Therapy’ (OAATT) which supports ‘help at the point of need’ therapeutic care and recognises how one or more sessions of therapy at the point of need may be sufficient for positive change to occur. Students can self-refer for OAATT online and this will be triaged within 24 working hours, with the first session usually offered within 72 working hours.
The UCS offers group sessions and workshops. Further information and details on how to sign up can be found at https://www.studentsupport.cam.ac.uk/get-support/groups-and-workshops.
What conditions respond to counselling?
Counselling can help with a huge range of conditions including personal, relationship and sexual problems, family troubles, bereavement, decision making, work-related problems, identity problems, etc. Mental health troubles including anxiety, stress and depression can respond well to counselling and the UCS has some Mental Health Advisors. Note that if mental health problems are significant, then the Clinical Student Mental Health Service may be appropriate (see separate FAQs).
How do I access counselling with the UCS?
Students usually self-refer by completing a pre-assessment form which is available on the website. This helps the service to prioritise your request and match you to a counsellor with suitable experience. You can specifically request a male or female counsellor if you wish, or one who practises CBT.
What does the service cost?
The UCS is free to current students, including Clinical Students.
Can I access counselling elsewhere?
Yes, there are many other counselling services available, and many students will access counselling via their College. Some GP surgeries will offer access to NHS counsellors, although the waiting list is typically longer. College and GP provision tends to vary.
There are also many private counselling services in Cambridge. We are not able to recommend a particular private counsellor, but this is something that you could discuss with your GP if you wish.
Is counselling confidential?
In general, this is the case, and the counsellor will not divulge information without your consent. An exception to this would be if they became aware of a significant risk to your safety or that of others, or if there was a statutory or legal obligation to disclose information.
When is the UCS open?
The UCS is open throughout the year and is not restricted to University term times, which is an advantage for Clinical Students. Appointments are usually offered 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.
They are currently operating remotely due to Covid-19, rather than face to face.
What is the waiting time?
This will vary according to the time of year, your availability and flexibility, but is typically several weeks.
If I have a virtual meeting during working hours can I book a room at the Clinical School?
Yes, if you would like a room booked for a virtual meeting, please contact SubDeansPA@medschl.cam.ac.uk.