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Bursary crisis for thousands of student nurses

Student nurses have been pushed into debt and left unable to afford food or transport after tens of thousands were not been paid their correct bursary this autumn, Nursing Times has learnt.

The crisis has developed since the summer and is thought to have affected up to 35,000 healthcare students.

Dozens of trainees have contacted Nursing Times to complain about delays in receiving their payments. Some say they are now in debt as a result, while others have been forced to turn to friends and family for help with childcare costs and buying food (see right).

The NHS Student Bursaries organisation is still battling to sort out the problems and began issuing “provisional payments” in September to tied students over.  

Many students have complained about being repeatedly told different things by NHS Student Bursaries contact centre staff, with some promised payments only for the cash not to arrive.

Many have also complained about being hit with large mobile telephone bills after calling the contact centre, which uses an 0845 telephone number.

Jenny Thompson, 25, is studying to be an adult nurse at Plymouth University and told Nursing Times she was in debt because of delays in her payments. Although she received an initial payment in September, after applying in June, she had received nothing since.

The mother-of-two said: “I don’t know if I can afford to stay on the course. I’m having to borrow money from people to travel and for food, it’s embarrassing. I feel like I am being constantly fobbed off and there are other people on my course still waiting to receive payments as well.”

Rachel Shelley, 26, who is studying to be a mental health nurse at York University, told Nursing Times that, despite applying for her bursary early in the summer, she did not get the £558 she was expecting in September.

As a result, she had to turn to her family for help paying her rent, and ran up a £76 phone bill trying to contact NHS Student Bursaries to solve the problem.

She said: “On two occasions they told me it was fine and then when the day came the money didn’t arrive. I called them over several weeks, one person told me I wasn’t even eligible and another told me I shouldn’t rely on the money anyway!”

NHS Student Bursaries denied there was any problem with its application process and claimed students had either not applied soon enough or failed to provide sufficient evidence to support their application.

A spokesman said NHS Student Bursaries said it began inviting students to apply for bursaries in March and May.  

He said: “In June, we identified we had still not received the majority of completed applications from continuing students in time for us to assess their application and put assessed award payments in place for the September/October intake.

“Our investigations showed this mainly affected continuing students who were either not applying at all or who were sending insufficient or incorrect evidence to support their application. We sent reminders via phone, email and text to encourage students to take action accordingly.”

He said NHS Student Bursaries had begun issuing all continuing students with a “provisional payment” in September based on the monthly bursary they received in 2011-12.

The spokesman added: “We are working with those students who have been affected and have introduced escalation procedures for queries, fast track processing facilities for any student facing severe financial hardship and additional weekly payment runs.”

Regarding complaints about the service from contact centre, the spokesman added: “We regret that some students have not experienced a service that they would expect from us in this instance.”

NHS Student Bursaries said it hoped to have all claims received by 30 September reassessed by 31 December.

Readers' comments (16)

  • There should be provision put in place to resolve the issues. I have not had any money for 2 months and have been told I am not likely to get anything this coming Friday either. How are we meant to concentrate on our studies with this looming in the background.

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  • Absolutely ridiculous.
    Can you imagine a comparable situation happenng in the banking sector??? No, I can't either.
    Yet another example of Nurses being treated like doormats. Student Nurses are becoming the back-up numbers on wards, too, just as we/they were in the 70's and 80's.
    Be warned - this is how the future will pan out.

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  • knoxy82

    Having read the article above it's laughable that they are saying students have not applied early enough. I have already applied for my bursary for Adult Nursing that starts in March 2013 and was told my application had been rejected because I had applied too early. When I asked when should I re-apply I was told in the new year. This would leave only 9 weeks until the start of my course. It is scarey & ridiculous at the same time.

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  • In response to 'Knoxy82' I am starting Adult Nursing in March 2013 and received my application to apply for NHS bursary about 2 weeks ago and sent it off straight away as it had to be in within 10 days and I am awaiting the next form that they will be sending me to complete.
    So cannot understand why they said to you apply in the new year when they are the ones that sent me the application form part one out to at the end of Oct???? Hope the issues will be resolved by the time our applications are processed though or I would be one of the many that will be stuck finanically?! :/
    L.C

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  • Wouldn't be too bad if the call centre staff all knew their roles, being told different answers everytime you call them, proves it was more likely a fault on their part than the 35,000 of us who were uinpaid and are still experiencing difficulkties in finding answers!

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  • This is completely ridiculous, I applied for my final year bursary months ago and have already had the evidence sent back to me. No problems there. However I am still waiting for my new award. I have no idea how much I will be getting. I am in debt. My university have said I'm eligible for the access to learning fund however they wont make the complete assessment until I receive confirmation of my bursary amount which according to the bursary service isn't until the end of December..

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  • It does seem that the staff give conflicting information. I am a continuing degree student and myself and a few other students was told that we would not receive a payment in September. This was apparently because of the two months payment given in the previous October when we first started the degree. Other degree students was told they were on rolling payments and would definately receive a payment in September. Hence much confusion and worry for many of us. I actually lent my months bursary off a couple of friends or i would have had to leave the course. Payday came and the bursary money was thankfully there, however the fact that i had been told there wouldn't be a payment showed lack of knowledge from the staff and caused alot of undue stress.

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  • Hi
    I recieved an email in july of this year to apply online line i did this straight away and i still have not been awarded my bursary as yet ? I have on several occasions phonned and spoken to different reps and each has told me a different story. in fact the last phonecall i made i was told it could take up to January of next year to be dealt with. I have n ow run up a large bill for my child care and used a credit card for fuel. Come on bursaries people sort it out getting desperate now !!

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  • I was told I could not apply for my bursary as I was going on holiday and needed to send my passport as evidence. I then called up again and spoke to another person who said I could use my driver's licence as evidence! I put my claim in August and this is my first year of study. I have still not received a payment and when I called them today, the lady was of know help. She was unable to give me any time scales as to when I can expect my payment and just told me they were dealing with it. If it doesn't come through soon I will not be able to continue on my degree. I can barely afford travel let alone anything I need to do my studies with.

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  • I'm a first year Radiotherapy student and still don't know when I will receive any bursary or how much. Every time I call they say I will hear very soon then 2 days later they ask for further evidence. I am now on my first placement and may have to defer my place as I cannot afford to fund the 100 mile round trip each day!

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  • I guess that I'm one of the lucky ones as my Bursary has been paid regularly and without any delays.

    I sympathise greatly c. those who are "suffering" at the hands of the Bursary payers and wonder why - c. modern IT facilities - they can't get their act together.

    Where students have put their applications in, in accordance c. the timetable, there can't be any excuse - and certainly no excuse for some of the comments from Bursary staff alleged above.

    I'm about to join the RCN Student Committee and would be glad to raise this issue at that forum - unless the RCN has it already in hand.

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  • Most of the people on my course still haven't received payment yet and its mid november the thing that really grates me is I got my place in May and phoned them straight away to get my application rolling and they told me I had to wait for an email from them before I could apply giving me a link so not everyone applied at once so they could manage the flow..... I didn't get an email until July even though I phoned them twice before.... to add PG dip students are not entitled to a student loan and we're full time so all we have to rely on is bursary... its so frustrating. I had mine sorted after a further 4 calls however it took another two weeks and further 2 calls to get the extra weeks allowance sorted..

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  • Dear NHS BSA team,

    The phone call, that I actually received this time, after being told repeatedly I would be contacted and getting nothing - stated that I would receive my FULL bursary earlier this week. The guy that called me said that the degree applications had been closed and the diploma application had been approved. You know, the application that should have been closed in July, when I called the NHS Bursary team and was told the diploma applications would be closed and that I should make a degree application - which I was told would take 10-20 days to process.
    Today I have again received the wrong bursary payment.

    Do you think this is acceptable?
    Because I do not.
    I think this is a joke.

    As instructed I changed my application to diploma back in July and was told this would take 10-20 days to process.

    The details on my BOSS account clearly state, have done for the past couple of months, that I am a Diploma Mental Health Nursing student. This means that I am entitled to the full non-income assessed bursary. Yet I am still not receiving the full non-income assessed bursary. Why is this?

    We are now in November.

    July 20th - I noticed my BOSS system payment schedule detailed the incorrect amount - Amended application under NHS BSA and UoN instruction. I was told by the NHS BSA that the two prior degree applications would be closed, as these were incorrect, and the new, corrected, diploma application would take 10-20 days to process.

    Sept 3rd - I E-mailed the NHS BSA regarding the fact that whilst my details had been updated I had still not been informed that the amended application had been processed. BOSS now showed my correct details but no payment schedule.

    Sept 13 - I was told by NHS BSA that the account had been referred to the correct department to be processed - direct quote from the e-mail “I can confirm you will receive payment for September based on last year's bursary award until your application is fully processed”

    Sept 23rd - I e-mailed the NHS BSA to inform that them that I had not received the same non-income assessed bursary payment that I had been receiving in year one of my course.

    October 9th - I received an e-mail stating that my query had been referred to an assessment centre

    October 19th - I received the incorrect amount of bursary again, I e-mailed the NHS BSA team regarding this and also pointed out that despite my previous efforts to make contact I have yet to receive any reply regarding the processing of my bursary application, from back in July.

    October 25th - I received an e-mail stating that my details had been forward to the bursary processing team for an urgent response and that I would receive an e-mail from within 48 hours

    November 1st - I replied the 25th October e-mail explaining that I am still yet to receive any information regarding my amended bursary application from July. I still have not received the correct bursary payment. Nor have I received the e-mail I was told I would receive within 48 hours.

    November 5th - Another fob off. Despite asking for the phone number and/or e-mail for the correct department to contact - the one which I am told - every time I e-mail the NHS BSA - will be contacting me after having my e-mail referred to them - the NHS BSA facebook said I could not have the phone number because they only use e-mails and ignored my request for the e-mail.

    November 5th - I received an e-mail telling me that I had replied to the bursary three times. This I already knew and had mentioned on July 20th. I had already mentioned on July 20th (and most subsequent e-mails) that I applied for the diploma under the instruction of the NHS Bursary team after making a phone call and that I was told on this phone call (in July) the degree applications would be closed and that the diploma application would take 10-20 days to process.

    November 6th - I received an e-mail telling me the processing team would contact me within 24 hours.

    November 7th - Actually received the promised contact this time. The member of the processing team restated that I applied three times and that a degree application was still open - as if this was my mistake. This is a mistake that you should have corrected immediately when I made my application. You had the opportunity to correct this mistake when I rang the NHS Bursary team and was told that this mistake would be corrected in mid July. You have also had the opportunity to correct this mistake, when I pointed it on in my e-mail on July 20th and every single time since then that I have e-mailed the NHS Bursary team and pointed out that something has gone wrong.
    I was told that the diploma application was approved and being processed and that I would receive the full bursary and back payments this month

    November - 16th I received the incorrect bursary amount again. I am still receive the degree bursary that never should have been receiving. The incorrect bursary amount that should have been corrected by mid August at the latest. It’s the end of November.

    BOSS still shows no payment schedule.

    Something is very wrong with this.

    You have failed to process my application.

    You did not inform me that you had failed to process the application.

    You have failed to inform my of why you have failed to process the application.

    You have failed to inform me of when the application will be processed.

    You have told me numerous times that I will be contacted regarding these questions and have failed to follow up with the actual promised contact.

    You finally delivered on the promised contact, but it appears everything that was said in this contact was false. Everything claimed to have been sorted out has not been sorted. I am still receiving the incorrect bursary. I did not receive a back payment. This has been entirely useless.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • The phone call, that I actually received this time, after being told repeatedly I would be contacted and getting nothing - stated that I would receive my FULL bursary earlier this week. The guy that called me said that the degree applications had been closed and the diploma application had been approved. You know, the application that should have been closed in July, when I called the NHS Bursary team and was told the degree applications would be closed and that I should make a diploma application - which I was told would take 10-20 days to process.
    Today I have again received the wrong bursary payment.

    Do you think this is acceptable?
    Because I do not.
    I think this is a joke.

    As instructed I changed my application to diploma back in July and was told this would take 10-20 days to process.

    The details on my BOSS account clearly state, have done for the past couple of months, that I am a Diploma Mental Health Nursing student. This means that I am entitled to the full non-income assessed bursary. Yet I am still not receiving the full non-income assessed bursary. Why is this?

    We are now in November.

    July 20th - I noticed my BOSS system payment schedule detailed the incorrect amount - Amended application under NHS BSA and UoN instruction. I was told by the NHS BSA that the two prior degree applications would be closed, as these were incorrect, and the new, corrected, diploma application would take 10-20 days to process.

    Sept 3rd - I E-mailed the NHS BSA regarding the fact that whilst my details had been updated I had still not been informed that the amended application had been processed. BOSS now showed my correct details but no payment schedule.

    Sept 13 - I was told by NHS BSA that the account had been referred to the correct department to be processed - direct quote from the e-mail “I can confirm you will receive payment for September based on last year's bursary award until your application is fully processed”

    Sept 23rd - I e-mailed the NHS BSA to inform that them that I had not received the same non-income assessed bursary payment that I had been receiving in year one of my course.

    October 9th - I received an e-mail stating that my query had been referred to an assessment centre

    October 19th - I received the incorrect amount of bursary again, I e-mailed the NHS BSA team regarding this and also pointed out that despite my previous efforts to make contact I have yet to receive any reply regarding the processing of my bursary application, from back in July.

    October 25th - I received an e-mail stating that my details had been forward to the bursary processing team for an urgent response and that I would receive an e-mail from within 48 hours

    November 1st - I replied the 25th October e-mail explaining that I am still yet to receive any information regarding my amended bursary application from July. I still have not received the correct bursary payment. Nor have I received the e-mail I was told I would receive within 48 hours.

    November 5th - Another fob off. Despite asking for the phone number and/or e-mail for the correct department to contact - the one which I am told - every time I e-mail the NHS BSA - will be contacting me after having my e-mail referred to them - the NHS BSA facebook said I could not have the phone number because they only use e-mails and ignored my request for the e-mail.

    November 5th - I received an e-mail telling me that I had replied to the bursary three times. This I already knew and had mentioned on July 20th. I had already mentioned on July 20th (and most subsequent e-mails) that I applied for the diploma under the instruction of the NHS Bursary team after making a phone call and that I was told on this phone call (in July) the degree applications would be closed and that the diploma application would take 10-20 days to process.

    November 6th - I received an e-mail telling me the processing team would contact me within 24 hours.

    November 7th - Actually received the promised contact this time. The member of the processing team restated that I applied three times and that a degree application was still open - as if this was my mistake. This is a mistake that you should have corrected immediately when I made my application. You had the opportunity to correct this mistake when I rang the NHS Bursary team and was told that this mistake would be corrected in mid July. You have also had the opportunity to correct this mistake, when I pointed it on in my e-mail on July 20th and every single time since then that I have e-mailed the NHS Bursary team and pointed out that something has gone wrong.
    I was told that the diploma application was approved and being processed and that I would receive the full bursary and back payments this month

    November - 16th I received the incorrect bursary amount again. I am still receive the degree bursary that never should have been receiving. The incorrect bursary amount that should have been corrected by mid August at the latest. It’s the end of November.

    BOSS still shows no payment schedule.

    Something is very wrong with this.

    You have failed to process my application.

    You did not inform me that you had failed to process the application.

    You have failed to inform my of why you have failed to process the application.

    You have failed to inform me of when the application will be processed.

    You have told me numerous times that I will be contacted regarding these questions and have failed to follow up with the actual promised contact.

    You finally delivered on the promised contact, but it appears everything that was said in this contact was false. Everything claimed to have been sorted out has not been sorted. I am still receiving the incorrect bursary. I did not receive a back payment. This has been entirely useless.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I'm a 3rd year degree student. I applied for my bursary in May and physically took my evidence to their office in Bolton, was told everything was ok and would take about 20 days to process. 5 months later still nothing! So bursaries unit, is this my fault, did I not apply in time or give the correct evidence?? I'm pretty sure 35,000 students haven't made the same mistake. Passing the buck, we also had the same mistake with Student Finance England in September them blaming Uni and Uni blaming them. I live 40 miles from Uni and struggle to pay petrol costs, childcare, rent etc. why the big problem this year? Haven't had a problem for the past 2 years (before the BOSS system came in and the office was in Fleetwood). Are we going to get an apology? One for the mess and another for blaming the students!

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  • This makes me laugh, until this year we had to wait for nhs bursaries to send out the leeter to invite us to apply. This year no letter came so the continuing students did not apply, I took it into my own hands and applied in august with paper forms that they lost and have recently reapplied. the online system wont let jan start students apply until dec. I think its going to be fun being on placement in january writing two essay and a dissertation whilst having to work full time to support myself. thanks bursaries!!!

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