Nursing students from across the country have criticised the NHS Student Bursaries scheme after errors, delays and poor customer service.
Nursing Times has heard example from students up and down the country as new terms start at university.
Around 30 students at York University did not receive their bursary payment on time due to an “administrative error”, though this was rectified two to three days later after complaints.
Amy Bascombe, a third year studying adult nursing at York, said: “This isn’t the first issue I have had and certainly not the first issue I’ve heard about. There is a catalogue of errors and it is a really poor service. It just isn’t fit for purpose.”
She added that the bursary service needed to “listen to what was being said and put it right”.
Mental health nurse Natalie Moore applied in August and did not receive her bursary when she expected in September. She said: “I have to say I am very relieved that this is my last ever NHS bursary application.”
Another student Ria Bennie contacted Nursing Times after being told she would not hear anything about her application until 31 October.
“We are now in great financial difficulty. I’m almost at the point of me having to give up my newly started degree,” she said.
Susanna Malkakorpi added: “Every phone call – and I’ve made many – brings new or different information. It’s always another five business days wait when the call centre, once again, refers my application ‘for urgent review’.”
Each year around 23,000 new students apply for an NHS Bursary along with 35,500 students continuing their training.
Figures obtained by Nursing Times from NHS Student Bursaries reveal that, as of 3 October, 70%, or 17,732 of the 23,000 new students have had their payments approved, while 7%, or 1,722, still due to be processed.
For continuing students, 84%, or 31,441, have been approved and 5%, or 1,913, are still due to be processed.
A spokesman for NHS Student Bursaries, which is run by the NHS Business Services Authority, said improvements had been made since 2012 when it was forced to apologise for delays and make provisional payments to students whose applications were outstanding.
He said: “The overall application process has been smoother and more efficient than last year and there are no system wide issues affecting students.
“We acknowledge that due to the complexities, there are on occasion administration errors that may cause delays to the assessment of additional elements of a student’s bursary application.
“We of course apologise for any inconvenience we cause students through administrative errors,” he added.
Students can contact the service to resolve problems on a cheaper local rate phoneline at 0300 330 1345 as well as request a call-back service.
Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.