COVID-19: Impact on postgraduate specialist training

Updated 5 March 2021

We are working to ensure standards in training are maintained

Many of our trainee doctors are on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are mindful of the enormous burden placed on these doctors as a result of increased workloads, longer hours, and concern for their patients, colleagues and loved ones.

To ensure that standards in postgraduate specialist training are maintained, we are developing solutions to allow mandatory courses, study days, assessments and examinations to continue. We will keep in regular email contact with trainees and trainers during the pandemic as new arrangements are rolled out.

It is likely that our trainers and trainees will be required to focus all of their efforts on providing care to those who are ill. This will have an impact on training activities and could mean that trainees are redirected within the service.

Currently the priority is patient care/patient directed services and the provision of appropriate supervision to your activities both within and outside of your normal scope of practice as per Irish Medical Council guidelines.

Specialist training and education must however continue in so far as possible, and the health and wellbeing of our trainees must receive attention during this challenging time.

To minimise the impact on training and education, RCPI has developed the following guiding principles:

  • All non-essential training activities and processes will be reviewed and where possible will be offered virtually or rescheduled. This includes mandatory courses, study days and annual evaluations
  • The career progression of a trainee will not be adversely affected due to the service requirements during this major incident response
  • Any trainee deployed to a different clinical area must undergo appropriate induction and be informed of who they are reporting to and who is providing clinical supervision
  • RCPI will work with the HSE to ensure that trainees work within the limits of their competence and appropriate to their stage of training/specialty
  • Trainees must be supported during this period. The HSE and RCPI will work together to provide health and wellbeing support to trainees
  • Disruptions in training or learning outcomes not achieved due to this major incident response will be taken into account at the annual evaluation of training


HST Entry (2021/22), completing your BST Training and RCPI Membership (Written and Clinical Examinations)

Please be reassured that there has been no change in the position of the College in relation to applying for and eligibility for HST.  If you are eligible to apply for Higher Specialist Training (HST) in Ireland, the postponement of the written and clinical examinations due to the pandemic will not impact on your progression to potential interview or your eligibility to receive an offer for this programme next year. You can still apply for HST (intake 2021/22) even if you haven't completed all Parts of the Membership examination by autumn 2020. 

We have worked to ensure that all final year trainees have the opportunity to complete all components of the MRCPI examination – both late in 2020 and in spring 2021. 

Specifically in relation to the above:

  1. All candidates must have successfully passed their MRCPI Clinical examination by 14 April 2021 at the latest.
  2. In terms of application for HST for entry in July 2021. To be eligible to attend for HST interview:
    • you must have already passed your MRCPI Clinical, or
    • you recently sat it and are awaiting the result, or
    • you have a date booked and will be sitting it in spring 2021.


Health and wellbeing support is available in RCPI

Our health and wellbeing services remain open. All scheduled meetings will go ahead using either Skype or Zoom. We will be in touch with individuals who have already made arrangements to meet with us to set this up.

You will find health and wellbeing information here on our website

For immediate phone support please refer to the HSE Employee Assistance Programme

Otherwise, email us at


Keep your ePortfolio as up to date as possible

During this time, we ask that you keep your ePortfolio as up-to-date as possible.

You can continue to log activities in your ePortfolio that don’t need sign off from a Trainer as you would normally record.

We understand that you may have issues getting your Trainer to sign off and this will be taken into account during Annual Evaluations.

If you have been deployed to another area and you are not in a position to fulfill your training requirements during this time, this will also be considered at Annual Evaluations and you will not be adversely affected.

During this time any Trainer you are working with can sign you off, this does not need to be your named Trainer. If you are unsure if someone is a Trainer please contact your training coordinator.


Annual evaluations  

 We have reviewed this year’s evaluations and we will be conducting these online over May and June 2021. The pandemic has brought continuing challenges and so we will use the same approach as the last training year for which we received very positive feedback from trainees and trainers.


COVID-19 impact on examinations

Please check here for the latest updates on examinations


Doctors on International Training Programmes

There are a number of trainees who are enrolled on our international training programme working in training posts here in Ireland. Some of their Sponsors/Embassies have been in touch with trainees advising them to return home. In these circumstances we have advised trainees to follow the advice of their Sponsor/Embassy.

Similar to trainees enrolled on the BST and HST training programmes, the provisions of the communication outlined above will also apply to international trainees. We will continue to work closely with our international trainees in these circumstances.


Higher Specialist Trainees Acting up in Consultant Posts

Under our current rules, final year Higher Specialist trainees are allowed to “act up” in a consultant post for three months during their final year.

We understand that in some sites senior Trainees are being asked to act up. Please note that acting up is only allowed and appropriate if a Trainee is in their final year of Higher Specialist Training.

Please note this does not apply to Obstetrics and Gynaecology - The rules around acting up remain the same and are not allowed by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.


Mandatory courses 

Please check here for the latest updates on courses and events


Statement from the Medical Council

The Medical Council has asked us to make you aware of the following statement:

Any site designated as a clinical site in this emergency will be deemed appropriate for doctors on either the Specialist Trainee Division or the Supervised Division provided it is under the supervision of nearest hospital or a Senior Clinician. In the current health crisis doctors may be asked to perform duties that are outside their current scope of practice. We recognise this may be necessary, but all tasks and roles carried out should be within a doctor’s capabilities and with adequate supervision.


80 additional places on our Basic Specialist Training programme

The approval of 80 additional Basic Specialist Training places in Ireland was announced by the HSE on 24 June 2020. This is a very welcome development - we have been working closely with the HSE to get these additional specialist training opportunities approved. The additional places are open to EU and non-EU doctors.

We have finalised the process for recruiting doctors into these new places on our Basic Specialist Training programmes.

Full details on these additional training places can be found here on our website

Contacting us

The best way to reach us during the COVID-19 pandemic is by email. If you need to speak to someone dial +353 1 8639700 and press 3 for Training and Faculties. Phone lines are manned 09:00 - 17:00 GMT, Monday to Friday.