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'Students deserve an apology for bursary mess'

Nurses are getting pretty used to being paid less and less in real terms. And now it seems this is becoming part of student training too.


As reporter Shaun Lintern reveals on page 2, 35,000 students in England did not receive their bursaries on time, and many slipped into debt. Many may not receive it until the end of the year.

That is a pretty huge number of students unable to buy books, feed themselves or look after their families. To add insult to injury, many have had to spend huge amounts phoning the 0845 number to contact NHS Student Bursaries.

This is how they are being prepared for the world of work.

NHS Student Bursaries claims that the fault lay with students not applying properly, which students dispute. After all, 35,000 of them can’t all have made the same mistake can they?

Although nothing can take away the hardship of having no money to live on, a simple apology may have made this bitter pill slightly easier to swallow for the thousands of students affected.

This is not the way to welcome students to the nursing profession. This is not the way to ensure students feel respected, valued and treasured

We’ve all seen how large corporate businesses can charm their customers with an elegant apology. Marks and Spencer did just that with its “We’ve boobed” campaign after it added surcharges to larger bra sizes, and Howard Stringer’s handling of the Sony PlayStation hacking incident smartly offered perks to its customers.

Students don’t have a choice about who gives them their bursary, and so NHS Student Bursaries doesn’t have to fight to attract their business. But that’s not a good enough reason to take students for granted. Don’t they still deserve some level of customer service? They still deserve answers.

An apology and a pledge to commit to a process that can guarantee this fiasco will not happen again would go some way to allaying students’ fears and make them feel that their voices had been heard and acted upon.

This is not the way to welcome students to the nursing profession. This is not the way to ensure students feel respected, valued and treasured. Instead it is a surefire way to make them feel angry, upset, frustrated and taken for granted.

This week’s Frontline First figures about cuts to posts from the RCN (page 3) and our news story on burnout (page 3) reveal more of those emotions lay in wait in their later careers. But what a shame we can’t start off their time as a nurse with less cynicism and more respect for their chosen job? Surely, the NHS should be leading by example to get the best out of our next generation of nurses.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed

Readers' comments (17)

  • Scottish students suffered this mess too this nightmare

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  • I feel really bad for these poor students and think this is an absolute disgrace but as for it not being the way to make students feel valued, respected and treasured.... welcome to the world of nurses! For the past few years now we have had our money frozen (effectively a pay cut), our nursing fees this year will be increased significantly, our working environment and resources stretched to their very limits and been criticised left, right and center. My advice to anyone wishing to be valued, respected and treasured.... don't become a nurse!

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  • Anonymous | 13-Nov-2012 1:42 pm why distinguish between Scottish and the rest of the UK?

    Well the cynical part of me says that as bad as this 'crisis' is, I agree with Anonymous | 13-Nov-2012 3:58 pm in that at least it will prepare them for the world of nursing when they qualify. They think they are in debt now?!? Welcome to a world where as a highly educated, highly skilled and highly qualified professional, you will barely be able to afford to pay your bills and keep food on the table because of vastly devalued wages, welcome to a world where you have no status, you will have no worth, no value, no respect. Welcome to nursing!!! Did you expect anything more?

    Student Nurses don't deserve an apology, they should see this as a wake up call!

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  • I disagree with Mike, your first proper wage gives you the freedom, flexbility and status you've earnt. Three years of seeing people often at their worst - should teach you to spend your money wisely. The one thing I really regret and wish I had done as a new qualified is dedcut 150 from my monthly wages into another account on pay day... This way you have a back up too. Don't let others peoples negativity get you down about nursing. There some very gratifying about shaking your cohort leaders hand and getting your certificate once you qualify.

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  • Thank you Jenni ,waaaw at least someone has spoken on our behalf,This is the way they welcome students to the nursing profession. Students feel are not being respected, valued instead being in this profession for 3 years as a student , getting paid £300 a months you feel burdened with debts ,regrets,angry, upset, frustrated and taken for granted.We deserve a better treatment than this.They don`t Practise what they Preach. Where is respect,diginity,choise and many more in this profession? None.

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  • thank you michael doyle,i also disagree with mike.its fine if this is a wakeup call,but to say student nurses don't deserve any apology is disrespectful.i believe you are still a nurse because you love your job.

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  • Anonymous | 14-Nov-2012 11:18 am, I never meant students don't deserve an apology, read it as 'an apology is meaningless when you are treated in this way'.

    To you and Michael Doyle, I agree there is something gratifying about wanting to be a nurse and qualifying, but give me one positive thing about the profession now? Just one? Slashed pensions, slashed wages (and getting worse, goodbye afc) ridiculous, unsafe working conditions, no respect, no status ... that is not negativity, that is reality!

    "your first proper wage gives you the freedom, flexbility and status you've earnt." Are you having a laugh? First of all WHAT status? Secondly your first proper wage makes you cry when it falls far short of the wage you SHOULD be on given those three years of hard work and specialist qualifications,and then is reduced even further with all the forced deductions (pensions gone up, RCN or UNISON payments gone up, indemnity insurance going up, NMC payments exploding!) It has s** all to do with spending money wisely when there is no money left to spend!!

    Anonymous | 14-Nov-2012 9:59 am finally some sense! You are exactly right in that student nurses do deserve so much better than that. I think given the work put in it is an insult not to pay them a living minimum wage at least whilst training! But I'm sorry to report it does not get any better, in fact it gets progressively worse once you qualify.

    "burdened with debts ,regrets,angry, upset, frustrated and taken for granted" Yep, pretty much.

    If you are thinking about coming into the profession, don't. Not in this country at least. If you can get out to Oz, NZ, Canada or some American states, then by all means get the qual and go, you'll have better status, a better wage, better working conditions, better everything. If you can't, then leave. Any job is better than this. It's a bitter pill to swallow but it's better done early rather than suffer for years in the 'profession'.

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  • my bursary fine, only that they took 2 weeks to answer my email regarding applying to boss sysem from paper format, but they did apologise for it.

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  • The Student Bursaries authority took two months to pay me my bursary last year! However this year has been okay, as I am continuing my course and haven't had to change anything. I am astounded that they have allowed this to happen again to other students! How have they not learnt from their mistakes from last year?! Ridiculous.

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  • 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.

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  • saying this mess is preparing us for the 'real world' is a very ignorant thing to say. I live in the real world, i have two young children, a house to run, bills to pay, a car to run and on top of all this i have expensive textbooks to buy and travel costs to placement and university not to mention childcare. I sent my form off July so not late at all and it was all cimpleted correctly but have been waiting since then for it to be assessed. I am not getting a 'continuing' payment replicating my last august payment however i now have a 2nd child and should be getting more financial support so i need reassessing and this hasnt be done still. my first 'continuing' payment was 4 weeks late leaving me overdrawn with bank charges, struggling to pay my rent and unable to make it into university due to no childcare or petrol money. The NHS bursries are completely messed this up leaving so many students without any finanical support and for alot of us its our only source of income whilst studying. This isnt preparing ur for the real world at all, ive worked fulll time and you recieve your salary at the end of each month and if there is a problem payroll will sort that asap not leave you months on end with nothing and no apologies. A friend of mine with a baby has been without money for 3 months and in arrears on rent and may loose her home.

    We work hard in placement whilst studying, we deserve more than this.

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  • its very pathetic how NHS deals with student's bursaries. How are some of us going to cope with just money that can cover only our rent? how do we go to the university, placements, and even feed ourselves? IT's so so bad. i applied in July and have still not got my bursary. i was sent an email of notification of assessment just this Wednesday.

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  • This situation was compounded by rudeness and inaccuracy by those folks answering telephone enquiries from student nurses. This is symptomatic of poor training and indifference. We must bring the attention of our MPs to this situation in the hope (not expectation) that it need not always be this way.

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  • Stacey, you live in the real world, well done, we all do! But you have not yet experienced how nurses are treated in it. We have. So listen and take our advice.

    If you think this is bad, it is NOTHING to how you will be treated when you qualify.

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  • I am one of those student nurses who have not been paid my bursary this year. As for the NHS bursaries saying that it is students faults, I am in my third year now, they already had my infomation from year one! As a parent of two and a student this is doubly troubling as christmas looms around the corner, and it looks as though I will probably get nothing till maybe January...
    NHS bursaries should be ashamed...I just hope I can continue till January, as the childcare fees wont pay themselves :(

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  • I am a student nurse who had not been paid until recently and have had both this year and last assessed incorrectly. Due to this I became in debt, i had to borrow money from friends and family (luckily able to do so) to be able to eat and pay my rent, I was unable to get to university or placement for two weeks I could not afford travel. I was having to ring them weekly (using another's phone)to be told different things by each person, promised by them on each occasion that they would ring me back (of course they did not).
    The service provided by NHS bursaries is extremely unsatisfactory.
    The only way I was eventually paid was by contacting my local MP to look into my problem. Strangely within a day of him making contact with them they assessed my application and paid it within a week.
    I would advise others to do so, they do not listen to students and seem reluctant to act on anything.

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  • Of course there should have been an apology but the lack of one just reinforces the state of todays society. Apologies are seen as admissions of guilt and are unlikely to be uttered by any large organisation.
    I do think that this post seems to have degraded into a slag off the establishment and nurses wages are crap episode yet again.
    Nurses salaries are not bad. A band 5 nurses salary is in the top 20 graduate salaries at a little over £21,000 and that following 3 years of a bursary not a loan. Thousands of other graduates would love to earn that much and they are also stuck with having to pay back their student loans as well as paying their living expenses.
    I have worked as a nurse for 20 years, I have 4 grown up children, my wife doesn't earn a wage. We have managed to pay off our mortgage, we have 2 cars, 2 of my children have been to uni, we go on holiday abroad most years, we eat well, we live well and I have never worked overtime or done extra bank shifts.
    Apart from the mortgage we have never borrowed any money or been in debt.

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