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08.04.16

Consultation on abolishing bursaries for student nurses opens

Controversial proposals to abolish bursaries for student nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals are under consultation from today, as the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) warned that the proposals will discourage students from joining the profession.

The delayed consultation, which was originally due to open by the end of February, is over proposals to abolish the bursaries, and the cap on student nurses, and replace them with £9,000 tuition loans similar to those used in the rest of the higher education sector.

The government argues that these reforms are necessary to address staffing shortages in the NHS, which are leading to an increasing reliance on temporary and overseas staff, saying that two out of three student applications is currently rejected because of the cap.

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the RCM, said: “The consequences of scrapping bursaries for student midwives and nurses is detrimental to an already understaffed midwifery profession.

“Women with children and those who already have a first degree will be particularly hit hard if these proposals go ahead as many of these women already make up a large proportion of our current midwifery student base. Currently we have a diverse body of students who come from all walks of life; many are mature, not school leavers, who already have substantial caring and financial commitments.

“Whilst other students can work part-time to offset the costs of their degree programme, this option is not available to student midwives because their academic year is longer and they spend at least half of their time on clinical placements. With potentially catastrophic debts and little prospect of earning to offset these costs, we are concerned that the changes will act as a deterrent to aspiring students and will drastically reduce the number of applicants for pre-registration midwifery programmes.

“The government is aware of the existing shortage of midwives and the significant challenges facing the maternity services and should be doing everything it can to make midwifery and working in the NHS as attractive as possible. Cutting public funding to train frontline staff in an already struggling and understaffed maternity service just doesn’t make sense.”

The RCM warned that the changes will see student midwives left with £65,000 debts, or £100,000 in total for those who already hold another degree.

The RCM and partner organisations, including the Royal College of Nursing, Unison, the British Dental Association, and the National Union of Students, are planning a mass lobby of Parliament on 25 May over the issue.

In his introduction to the consultation Ben Gummer, secretary of state for care quality, said: “Many healthcare students currently report they are struggling financially.

“Putting more funding into the existing bursary system and tuition funding was not a viable option for the government, if we are to also: increase the supply of places to potential students, live within our budget and ensure that the NHS can use the extra £10bn worth of additional investment for front line care by the end of the Parliament.”

To take part in the consultation, click here.

 

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