Government to abolish nursing bursaries despite widespread opposition

Bursaries for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals are to be abolished despite warnings that this will discourage people from applying.

The Department of Health confirmed today that it will go ahead with abolishing bursaries, as it published the results of a consultation into the proposals.

The report confirms that student nurses will have to take out means-tested loans from the student loans company, in the same way as other students do at the moment, instead of having their course fees paid by Health Education England and receiving a bursary.

This is despite the report admitting that many respondents “highlighted” that healthcare students are often mature students, who may have debt from a previous degree or childcare responsibilities.

Organisations including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Unite and the Patients Association have led a campaign against the proposals, warning that they could discourage students from joining the nursing workforce.

The NHS Clinical Commissioners nursing forum has also come out against the proposals, calling them ‘counter-intuitive’ and saying they could make the quality and quantity of nursing worse.

The government said that it accepted that students with previous degrees were more likely to bring “valuable qualities” to student nursing. It added that it is “considering” allowing postgraduate nursing students to access loans in the same way as undergraduate nurses, but will not do so for students beginning their course in 2017.

The report said it would also develop a number of mitigating measures, including providing £1,000 a year to students with dependent children, allowing students to include the £303 they have to pay upfront to attend clinical placements in their loans, and working with the RCN to develop a hardship fund.

But Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations and communications at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which also campaigned against abolishing the bursaries, said: “Ministers have made minor concessions on the cost of placements and hardship, but this does not compensate for the large debts that midwifery students will experience and is not sufficient.

“The government has completely ignored the RCM advice to make any loans forgivable if students then go to work in the NHS. The RCM estimates that there is now a shortage of around 3,500 midwives in England alone. Because these plans are likely to make that shortage worse the RCM believes this policy to be a fundamental mistake.”

Philip Dunne, the new health minister, repeated the government’s assertion that abolishing bursaries will increase the number of nurses because it will remove the cap currently in place.

He said: “Currently two-thirds of people who apply to university to become a nurse are not offered a place.”

22 July UPDATE

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “Trying to resolve the workforce problems of the past by putting the financial burden on the nurses of the future is unfair and risky.

“Whilst our members are extremely unhappy with this model, it is positive that the Government has listened to some of our concerns including the transitional bursaries for postgraduates and hardship funds, but there is still a worrying lack of clarity on clinical placements.

“Nurses will be dismayed that these plans will go ahead with no testing, despite the overwhelming concerns which they have consistently raised.”

(Image c. Anthony Devlin from PA Archive and Press Association Images)

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Mike Thomas   22/07/2016 at 18:16

Why ? Don't the nurses get it hard enough as it is, just because that have kind hearts, they going to make it harder for them. Teresa May is this how your new government looks like ???

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