Many of you have been in touch with questions about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect your studies, your entry into practice and your medical defence organisation membership. We want to help you work safely and responsibly so we’ve answered your most common questions.

What’s expected of medical students?

Medical students across the country have been responding to calls to support the NHS during COVID-19. We want to help you work safely and responsibly.

The UK Health Departments, the GMC and the Medical Schools Council have issued new guidance meaning more students can volunteer and work to respond to this unprecedented health emergency.

Have a look at our article on how you can help as a medical student during the coronavirus outbreak.

I am a medical student and want to volunteer during the pandemic. What can I do?

Our student and foundation liaison manager, Rebecca Gould explains what the GMC has advised students who wish to volunteer.


The GMC says it may be possible for medical students to volunteer in the NHS if they’re willing and able to do so, for example working as healthcare assistants. You will be covered by NHS indemnity for this work and your MDU student membership will include advice and assistance with any medico-legal matters.

The GMC advises that arrangements for volunteering should be made locally. You must be supervised to be safe and act within your competence. You must not be asked to carry out any duties of a doctor.

I am a final year medical student and would like to work as an interim FY1 doctor to assist with the COVID-19 outbreak. What do I need to do?

Rebecca Gould explains how final year students can support, including as FiY1 doctors.


If you wish to work as an interim FY1 doctor it’s essential you have appropriate GMC registration. The GMC will contact you with instructions about what you need to do to provisionally register. 

Rest assured that your MDU student membership will automatically include advice and assistance with medico-legal matters that arise free of charge without you needing to contact us.

We can provide you with medico-legal advice and support with complaints, coroners’ inquests or disciplinary matters that arise in relation to your clinical care of patients. You will also benefit from our brand new health and wellbeing online resource for free, which you can access on the website. 

The GMC, along with the four statutory educational bodies covering the four nations, are all in agreement that trainees should only carry out activity they are competent to do. If they are asked to undertake activity beyond their level of competence, they must be advised to seek workplace guidance from a senior colleague.

As always, our expert medico-legal advisers are available from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (and can be contacted around the clock for urgent enquiries) to answer any medico-legal queries about dealing with the ongoing coronavirus situation, or to offer support to members who need medico-legal advice relating to their professional practice. You can contact them on advisory@themdu.com.

Is it compulsory for students to work as an interim FY1 doctor or to volunteer to help with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Rebecca Gould answers your question on what’s expected of medical students during the pandemic.


It’s not compulsory for students to work as an interim FY1 doctor or to volunteer to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll be able to decide if you wish to work in an interim foundation role or as a volunteer during the outbreak. The GMC says students who choose not to work or volunteer won’t be negatively affected.

You can find out more about the allocation of FiY1 roles on the UK Foundation Programme website.

My MDU membership

Do I need normal F1 membership or does student membership cover me if I start work early?

If you wish to work as an FY1 doctor, including under an F1 locum appointment for training (LAT) contract, it’s essential you have appropriate GMC registration. The GMC have said they will allow final year students to provisionally register to enable them to work as doctors. Your student membership with the MDU will include advice and assistance with any medico-legal matters that arise and you do not need to notify us of this change.

Why do I need MDU membership?

Rebecca Gould explains why it’s important that you have medical defence organisation membership.


You will be state indemnified for clinical negligence for the NHS work you do. However, it’s really vital that you have medical defence organisation membership for any other medico-legal issues that might arise. These include complaints, coroners’ investigations, writing reports for adverse incidents and disciplinary investigations. We have a 24-hour advice line staffed by medico-legal experts who are also doctors who can provide you with advice when you need it.  We also offer a range of other benefits including indemnity for Good Samaritan acts and a free online course to help you manage your health and wellbeing.

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What about my studies?

For those students who are studying, it’s a difficult time. While some of the content of the medical course can be covered online, practical aspects of the course, particularly clinical placements, are vital to enable medical students to qualify to the standards expected by the GMC.

The Medical Schools Council (MSC) has produced a statement providing information about how medical schools plan to go ahead with clinical placements during the pandemic.

It is obviously important that current medical students in all clinical years continue to receive the training they need to allow them to progress and qualify as competent doctors, as required by the GMC. The MSC notes that the Department of Health and Social Care in England has identified medical students as ‘essential workers’. This means that teaching and supervising medical students on clinical placements throughout the UK should be seen as essential work and allowed to continue.

There may be variations as to when clinical placements will restart for different medical schools as there will be a number of factors that will need to be taken into account. This includes consideration of whether students can be safely supervised, social distancing and the availability of PPE. The hope is that most medical schools will have some students back in placements by the end of September 2020, or sooner if the situation allows. It has been acknowledged that some changes may take place including the use of simulation tools and virtual clinics but the importance of students actively participating in the delivery of care, rather than just observing it, has been recognised.

Placements will need to be prioritised as availability is likely to be reduced and, understandably, priority will be given to those students who are in their final year. 

You can find more resources for students on our coronavirus FAQ page.

You can also find a number of relevant articles in the spring ’20 issue of our student journal Notes:

You may also find the following resources useful: 

Further information from the statutory educational bodies on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on medical education and training:


This article was correct at publication on 25/05/2020. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.