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Minister says student bursary shake-up will increase diversity of nursing


The shake-up up of the student bursary system will help open up nursing to people from a wider range of backgrounds, according to health minister Ann Keen.

The Department of Health this week launched its consultation on the future of funding for healthcare students, including nurses – a move first revealed by Nursing Times in June.

The consultation should see an end to the long-running disparity between nursing diploma students, who receive non-means tested bursaries, and nursing degree students, who are means tested. It proposes five possible options, most of which would result in a fairer support system for students across the board (see box).

The review, while driven by nursing’s expected move to an all-graduate entry profession 2015, is also being seen as an opportunity to make nursing a more attractive career for a wider section of society.

The number of applicants to nursing courses has dropped in recent years and fewer numbers of school leavers consider it an attractive career – prompting warnings of an impending recruitment crisis.

“Essentially, the aims of the review are to improve the number of students who complete their courses, the number of graduates who take up healthcare posts, and also to encourage students from groups who are under-represented within the NHS to consider studying to be a healthcare professional,” Ms Keen told Nursing Times.

“We hope that the new student support package will remove any barriers in attracting and retaining sufficient high quality applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds, and importantly make the nursing profession an even more attractive career for a greater range of people,” she added.

Welcoming the consultation, Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “We’re delighted it’s finally out. The bursary system has existed for 20 years and has never been reviewed. It is no longer fit for purpose.”

The consultation process will run for 12 weeks, closing on 11 December. Two “listening events” are also planned to take place – one in London on 27 October and the second in Leeds on 4 November.

Ms Keen added: “We strongly encourage those who are interested in this issue to register their views.”

Those who wish to take part can download a response form from the DH website, email or write to the DH at Room 2N22, Quarry House, Quarry Hill, Leeds, LS2 7UE.

The five options:

Retain the current scheme

Provide a means-tested bursary and a non-means-tested loan for all students

Provide a non-means-tested bursary for all students

Move NHS-funded students to the same support arrangements as all other students in higher education

Employ all students whilst they are studying.


Readers' comments (11)

  • I believe that the NHS should employ all students whilst they are studying so that they can be paid the full salary and enjoy it tax-free as students and a job placement afterwards. At the moment, been a student nurse doesn't look attractive, more like struggling to me.

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  • Maybe should shift back to original University system. After a first few weeks at University for the basics, then 3 days a week at Uni and 2 days a week based on a particular ward for a specified period. Then they could be paid a salary with the bigger likelihood of a job at the end

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  • I think that no student should leave university in debt - it is a burden which teaches young people that debt is just how life is and this is wrong. Perhaps a system whereby students gain work experience with a sponsor for a year or two after training would be a solution - the student will benefit from work experience, networking and learning to commit to their course, and the employer would be better equiped to know they're employee and place the student in a job they can excel at and be a more effective, dedicated and knowlegable nurse.

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  • I am due to complete my training in 3 weeks time, and opted to follow the degree pathway for the final 2 years of my training. I feel its unfair that I have had to struggle financially while developing my academic credibility. Many of my "diploma" colleagues would have also followed the degree pathway if finance had not been an issue. Although these issues are brought to the fore as the profession is changing to an all graduate profession, it is too late for some who have worked hard on placement and in University and now need to repay loans which funded their final year of training.

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  • Being a mature student in my second year of training , I can say that trying to maintain my education a home life and a income to live on as been very difficult. Not knowing how far one will have to travel to do a placement sometimes forty miles . A means tested bursery would not be an option for myself, even though it would have been my choice.

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  • I am a mature student nearing the end of my first year of training, whilst trying to maintain education, a home life and an income is difficult I have to say that I would not wish to be employed by the NHS whilst undertaking my training, I feel this would undermine our student status whilst on placement. I feel fortunate to be receiving a bursary as many professions don't have these options. I understand that to follow the degree pathway does have financial implications and that this does have an impact on making the decision but this is all explained before you commence the course.

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  • Having completed my nurse training as a mature student only 3 years ago, I understand the financial pressures that student nurses face. However, during my training I felt lucky to recieve any bursary at all. I studied for a chemistry degree when I left school and didn't get any bursary at all, and I attended university for far more hours per week studying chemistry than I ever had to during my nurse training (including placements) and had to do a year of full-time working for industrial experience for less than the nursing bursary in the middle of my degree. I think that maybe student nurses should start to appreciate that getting paid nearly £500/month tax free plus no university fees is considerably more than any other student gets. There is a shortage of graduates in many science and maths subjects as well as in nursing, and science/ maths students don't routinely get any extra funding.

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  • As a mature student with 2 young children it is only the non means tested bursary that has made it possible for me to study. Being married or living with a partner means that I am not eligible for many of the other benenfits. Employment contract could be an avantage as I have found out to my recent cost as you are legally protected in may ways. For instance I have a placement which is a 60 mile round trip, not good when you have 2 children and there is no protection of 'flexible' working.

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  • Out of those 5 options, the first 4 are an attack on our bursary arrangements. Only wages and guarunteed jobs will make nursing an attractive proposal.

    Increasingly there are fewer and fewer jobs availble for newly qualified nurses. The McKinsey Report recommended a recruitment freeze in 2011. That will mean three years struggling by on the poverty bursary only to wind up at the end of the dole queue. We need to get together and force the government to take the fifth option.

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  • This needs to be viewed in the context of very limited government money. The reality is that we simply don't pay enough taxes to fund everything we would like.
    If the decision is made to pay degree students whilst training then money will have to come from somewhere else, less nursing posts afterwards for instance. In that case I would to say my preference is not to pay degree students.
    Financial constraints are going to hit the NHS hard over the next few years. No body forces students to take the degree pathway and it is their choice, as for any student who undertakes higher education. Evidence shows those with a degree earn more, live longer, have healthier lives, are unemployed less etc and tha, in this less than perfect world, t is the payback for student debt

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