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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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  • Gemma Knox

    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?! :/

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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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