STUDENT nurses fighting the second wave of coronavirus should be getting paid for their toil, an MP has said.

Cases at Barnsley Hospital have soared since what was previously considered the peak of the virus in April - with ten days in November where the total number of beds occupied by Covid-positive patients was more than double the estimated 78 it was seven months ago.

But, while students on placement during that first wave were paid for their work, those now at the frontlines are not.

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, after being contacted by a constituent, has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to urge the government to reconsider its stance.

Mr Healey said: “I was contacted by a student nurse working on an all-Covid ward in a local hospital.

“She is seeing deaths every day and putting in 12-hour shifts. She is exhausted and her mental health is suffering.

“Why is she being made to feel less valuable than those who were doing this just a few months earlier?

“There’s a risk this will lead to students dropping out when we are in desperate need of nurses - there’s already a shortage of 40,000.”

The government has effected a huge push for new nursing staff, with it claiming more than 14,000 nurses and a record 5,000 student nurses have accepted roles this year.

Thousands of second and final year students have been enlisted to support the NHS through the first post-Covid winter - which has seen Barnsley Hospital given £3.9m by the government in preparation.

According to the latest NHS Digital statistics, Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has 806 full-time equivalent nurses and health visitors - the lowest number in South Yorkshire - and 117 midwives as of August.

In a move bemoaned by the borough’s MPs at the time, the government scrapped NHS bursaries for nurses - which covered tuition fees and living costs - in 2015, leading to a large fall in applicants.

The bursary was brought back for those starting their course in September but current second and third years will qualify with thousands of pounds of student debt.

Barnsley has consistently had some of the highest Covid rates in the county, and while numbers of cases are now lowering, it’s claimed hospital staff put themselves at high risk every time they start their shift.

According to figures obtained by the Chronicle, from March 23 to October 27 there were more than one in 20 positive coronavirus cases among Barnsley Hospital employees.

Further figures show 4,233 full-time equivalent days were lost in June due to absence - with 10.8 per cent of these registered due to Covid.

Mr Healey added, in a letter to the Health Secretary: “Hospitals are seeing more Covid patients than in the first wave while also being asked to continue with as many non-Covid appointments and treatments as possible.

“These recent weeks have seen our local South Yorkshire hospitals under extreme pressure and student nurses are again making a huge contribution to our NHS.

“They deserve better, with recognition for the role they are playing alongside qualified NHS colleagues on the Covid frontline.

“I ask you to give urgent attention to putting right this lack of payment.”