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Government promises £10k ‘golden hello’ to lure postgraduate nurses

In last night’s House of Common’s debate, it was announced by the Department of Health and Social Care that it would financially support postgraduate nursing students in England as part of a wider initiative to increase uptake in hard-to-recruit disciplines.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner criticised the government during the debate for scrapping the nursing undergraduate bursary. She argued this led to a fall of over 15,000 in nursing applications: from 47,000 in 2016, before the abolition, to 31,000 in 2018.

“It is clear that this is the reason why we have seen the sharpest ever decline in nursing applications,” she claimed, adding that simply have more trainees on wards is not a solution to staff shortages. “They are there to learn their job, not to do someone else’s.”

Health minister Stephen Barclay responded by announcing financial support for postgraduate nursing students.

He said that, after working in conjunction with the Department for Education and taking lessons from targeted support in teaching, the government intends to offer £10,000 golden hellos to postgraduate students in specific hard-to-recruit disciplines such as mental health, learning and disability and district nursing.

“That £9.1m package will be supplemented by a further £900,000 to mitigate a particular challenge with recruiting in any geographical areas,” the minister added.

“For example, if an area such as Cornwall suddenly found itself having difficulty in recruiting speech and language therapy recruits, a targeted measure – perhaps at a different quantum from £10,000 – could be implemented in order to reflect those geographical issues.”

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), responding to the Commons announcement, said: “This appears to be a welcome concession from the government that more needs to be done to convince graduates of other subjects to study nursing. But better still would be to drop its plans to remove full support from these students.

“Even though it’s a small number of people each year, this two-year course [postgraduate course] is the fast way to train a registered nurse. Nursing must be expanded at scale and pace to keep patients safe and students, both undergraduate and post-graduate, should be encouraged and financially supported.”

Davies promised that the RCN will not drop that call until Whitehall goes further, “not least with grants and a full raft of other incentives for undergraduates who make up the bulk of trainees each year.”


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