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11.01.16

DH to consult on controversial nursing bursary abolition

The Department of Health plans to issue a public consultation and impact assessment by the end of February on how it can take forward and implement nursing grants reforms.

Health minister Ben Gummer unveiled the government’s intention to take forward plans to abolish grants and maintenance allowances in response to a question from Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, who asked whether Whitehall had assessed the potential effects of introducing student loans and tuition fees for nurses’ training placements.

These plans have faced a backlash since they were first unveiled during the Spending Review last year. At the time, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) called it a “crushing blow” to future nursing students.

Over the weekend, nurses, students and supporters marched across Westminster in protest against the government’s plans, which would remove bursaries for students starting their studies in September 2017. Campaigners took to the streets in London, Manchester and Newcastle.

RCN’s chief executive and general secretary, Janet Davies, who addressed the crowd outside Number 10 Downing Street, said: “RCN students have today shown just how worried they are about this move and its potential effects. “Student nurses and midwives are the profession’s future and their voices and concerns must, and should be listened to.

“Over our 100-year history, the RCN has a long track record in the education of nurses and the government should listen to our knowledge and expertise as it consults on these ill-thought-out plans.”

The protests were also fuelled by fresh claims that axing the NHS bursary is likely to saddle student midwives with over £100,000 of debt, which they would still be repaying by 2050. Unison also published similar claims, showing trainees would face more than £50,000 of debt if plans went through.

The union’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, argued that replacing bursaries with loans and fees would force many students to “put off careers in nursing for fear of graduating with such huge debts”, adding to the existing nursing shortage permeating the health service.

“It’s madness when the health service is already struggling to fill so many vacancies. This is a political decision motivated by short-term financial savings, and will do nothing to solve the country’s nursing shortage,” he said.

“Many people will be forced to take second and third jobs, compromising their studies and health. Or they’ll be priced out of a career in nursing completely, especially if their parents don’t have the cash to subsidise them. The losers will be the NHS and patients.”

In response to the protests, a department spokesman said: “We need more home-grown nurses in the NHS because they do an amazing job caring for patients, but currently two-thirds of people who apply to become a nurse aren't accepted for training.

“Our plans mean up to 10,000 more training places by the end of this parliament, with student nurses getting around 25% more financial support whilst they study.”

Comments

Lisa   11/01/2016 at 14:56

As a final year student nurse, I wholeheartedly agree that taking away the bursary is detrimental to the NHS. It is a ploy to take down our beloved NHS and it will soon be gone if our government continue this way. First the junior doctors, now nurses, midwives, and AHP's. It is obvious that whatever we do will make no difference, they will do what they want because in the end it will benefit them (with their shares in private healthcare). I have my bursary, work a 37.5 week in placements, and also have to work as a bank nursing assistant in order to ensure I can pay my bills. Not even taking into account the exams, 6 assignments a year, and massive amounts of reading we have to do. I am currently in a placement where I have to work 14hour days. I absolutely love it, but I'm exhausted. Are they going to take everything away from us? All we want to do is look after our patients and ensure their safety, is it too much to ask to have our bursary so we don't come out with massive amounts of debt? Clearly it is. My husband and I have talked about emigrating, because this government is ruining us. I challenge Cameron, Hunt, Gummer, and Osbourne to work a 14 hour day, come home, clean their house, put their children to bed and make supper for their families. They would crumble!

Stuart Boobyer   11/01/2016 at 20:34

I'd like to see the evidence that two thirds of the people who apply aren't accepted onto training...or is this just another distortion of figures?! Also, are they suitable applicants? Are they capable of reaching the academic level and do they have the right personality to become a nurse? What's the point of taking on more students if they can't cope with the pressures of uni and the job? Not everyone will make a good nurse-it's about picking the right people in the first place!

Jenny Kim   15/01/2017 at 22:17

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