Future of student nursing called into question as bursary scheme scrapped by Government

The Government intends to scrap the existing student nurse bursary scheme in 2017

The Government intends to scrap the existing student nurse bursary scheme in 2017 - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Concerns have been voiced on the future of student nursing in the region following plans by central government to cut its bursary scheme in 2017.

The Royal College of Nursing for the eastern region has warned that the changes could have a drastic impact on the numbers of people taking up nursing courses in the future.

Currently, student nurses who live away from their parents, and outside of London, get a non-means tested grant of £1,000 a year, and an annual NHS means tested bursary of up to £4,491 which they do not have to pay back.

From 2017, student nurses will instead have to apply for a student loan. Karen Webb, the eastern region director for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Student nurses have to complete so many thousands of hours of clinical practice.

“They are not like normal university students. They have four weeks holiday a year and are either working or in the lecture hall having lessons.

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“It’s not like you can take a part time job. These students will finish a shift at 9.30pm and be back in the classroom at 9am.

“They are working thousands of hours and on top of that, when they have given three years service to the NHS, they are going to have a loan over their heads of around £27,000.

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“It’s unjust and immoral. The lifetime earning of a nurse is not the same as other graduates.

“It doesn’t have a benefit for the people who do the course. They won’t earn any more and it will stop many people who would be the very best nurses from being able to do that.

“There are still not enough nurses qualifying to fill the void that exists. They are going to have to continue to recruit from overseas, and yet there is no shortage of people wanting to become nurses.

“Universities are flooded with applications for nursing courses in this region.”

The matter will be the subject of a parliamentary debate, however, after a petition launched against the plans by a student nurse in the midlands amassed more than 100,000 signatures in 24 hours.

Suffolk County Council member for health, Tony Goldson, said: “It really is a difficult one, I have sympathy for everyone in this.

“The bottom line is the country hasn’t got the money and someone has to pay for the training. Do the hospitals pick the bill up?

“The government has got to look at how we train all our clinical staff, from the carers right through to the nursing staff.

“We have got an aging population greater than anywhere else in the country. Halesworth is really aging fast and we have got to deal with it.”

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