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Bursary loss already having impact on career decisions


Parents are already advising their children not to study nursing as a consequence of the government’s plans to move from bursaries to loans, according to a leading community nurse.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute chief executive also said she thought the education funding reforms would have a disproportionately negative impact on primary care due to the older age of its nurses.

“At best, we will fill the classrooms with 18-year-old school leavers”

Crystal Oldman

Dr Crystal Oldman issued the warning at a conference yesterday, where GPs repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of ending bursaries on the nurse workforce.

As reported by Nursing Times, the government announced plans to move from bursaries to loans in the autumn and launched a consultation earlier this month on the controversial policy.

Dr Oldman was asked how she thought moving to a loans-based system would affect being able to “attract students into nursing and grow the workforce”.

One doctor stated: “One of the most important things is the issue of attracting and retaining nurses and healthcare assistants. If we don’t do that we won’t survive as GP.”

“There is going to be a disproportionate effect in community and primary care”

Crystal Oldman

In response, Dr Oldman told the GPs that she had recently attended a careers evening at her former secondary school, where she was advising parents and pupils on the healthcare professions.

She said the question of student nurse bursaries “came up again and again” in conversations with families whose children were in their first year of A-level and would be the first group required to pay tuition fees from September 2017.

She told the Londonwide Local Medical Committees annual conference that parents were being put off by the combination of loan debts and low pay.

“Last night, there were a lot of parents who were saying: ‘I don’t want my daughter or son to go into nursing anymore because, yes, I understand the equity with other professions, but actually the potential to earn later is not as great as the other professions’,” she said.

Queen's Nursing Institute

Workload burden worse for London’s practice nurses

Crystal Oldman

She noted that studying nursing took around 42 weeks plus a year, providing “very little opportunity to undertake bar work or pat-time work as you go through your programme”.

Dr Oldman also predicted that the move to a loans-based system would change the age profile of student nursing cohorts, noting the current average was 28-29 years.

“At best, we will fill the classrooms with 18-year-old school leavers and, at worst, we’ll have empty seats.

“The people that we will be missing out on are those mature students,” she said. “You will know that you recruit to your practices those who have had life experience or a previous career – they tend to be a bit older – and those are the ones who are not going to be coming into nursing anymore.”

“I think, using that logic, that there is going to be a disproportionate effect in community and primary care,” she added.

Dr Jackie Appleby, chair of Tower Hamlets LMC and a GP at the Tredegar Practice, highlighted that some student nurses were already mounting a “very vibrant campaign” to protect the bursary.

“I urge everyone here to get behind that campaign in the way that GPs and everyone has got behind the junior doctors,” she told delegates.

“It’s a no-brainer, we have to support undergraduate and postgraduate training for nurses in our practices”

Robbie Brunt

Dr Robbie Bunt, chair of Islington LMC and a GP at the River Place Group Practice, also warned about the problem of providing primary care placements to student nurses and postgraduate trainees.

“I’ve tried to negotiate this locally for my GPs – there is no funding available,” he said.

Dr Bunt said there was a “real cost” from providing placements, in terms of giving time and advice that was not currently recognised.

He said doctors should be campaigning for a scheme like that for GP registrars where placements were funded, with paid nurse trainers brought in to do the job.

“It’s a no-brainer, we have to support undergraduate and postgraduate training for nurses in our practices but we need some money to do that,” he said.

Dr Oldman had previously addressed the conference at the Emirates Football Stadium on the findings of a QNI review into the practice nurse workforce in London.


Readers' comments (12)

  • It is obvious that this was going to happen. I predict a sharp fall in numbers applying. Then university schools of nursing will merge due to the drop and inevitably lecturers will be made redundant. So much for the government's promise that lifting the cap on numbers applying would allow more applicants to be accepted. The reason they applied was because there was a bursary and no fees. I asked my nurse friends (all were mature students), if they would have applied for nursing if they had to pay fees and all said "definitely not".

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  • I don't see many people applying after they cut the fact I don't see anyone applying at all maybe this opens opportunity for nurses from overseas to be recruited which costs the government less money to invest in already experienced nurses

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  • This government seems intent on running the NHS into the ground and they are doing a brilliant job of it.

    Most NHS hospitals are already full of foreign doctors and nurses. What happens if the economy in these foreign countries picks up and more nursing jobs become available in their homeland. I already know of many Italian nurses who would go home in a heartbeat if they could get a decent job in their own country. The answer is not to recruit more and more people from abroad but to train our own.

    I qualified as a nurse 3 years ago as a mature student of 45 yrs and the majority of my fellow students were also 30+ years. Many were experienced HCA's, who decided they wanted to progress in their careers and become fully fledged nurses. Many also had young families to support and the only way they and I could afford to give up work and study full time was because of the bursary.

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  • I don't understand one thing: if the course will be paid out of the loan (virtually, never repayable) and the student will have a right to apply for a ML (9000GBP - also virtually and never repayable) how would you be worse of than having 5000GBP bursary (never repayable) and a ML of 2500GBP (virtually, never repayable). Clearly, every student will get 2500 more per year than at the moment. Let's embrace the change! I'm a first year student and among my cohort about 25% supports this change.

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  • A few things to say:

    1) if, as noted in Dr. Oldman's anecdote, nursing is not now viewed as an attractive profession (post bursary) because "the potential to earn later is not as great as the other professions", shouldn't we therefore be arguing for better pay/conditions/recognition for nurses? Surely this is a better way to make the profession more attractive, as opposed to saying "Ok, it's a low paid profession, but you won't incur any costs in your education/training". How about we argue for a parity of professional esteem/remuneration with nurses in other developed countries, such as Canada, US, Australia, etc?

    2) the current bursary debate completely overlooks the great likelihood of other models of pre-registration nursing emerging, and the impact of the concurrent development of the nursing associate role. The CSR effectively opened up the nursing education market, and will allow other providers to deliver routes to registration to meet local workforce requirements. I suspect that many of these are likely to be funded (e.g. apprenticeships) and appealing to mature and widening participation applicants, and HCAs who wish to develop to RN.

    My sense is that if anything, the removal of the bursary is likely, in time, to enable more mature and widening participation applicants to enter nursing, either at nursing associate level or through a degree-level apprenticeship.

    3) Given all of the above, it's curious that the predominant arguments are along the lines of "we need bursaries to keep attracting mature applicants with life experience", and not "what's the impact of these changes on status of nursing as a profession in England".

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  • 'Given all of the above, it's curious that the predominant arguments are along the lines of "we need bursaries to keep attracting mature applicants with life experience", and not "what's the impact of these changes on status of nursing as a profession in England". '

    Britain. Sigh.

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  • Joined up thinking again I see! We are moving to more community care, or so we are told. Who will be in the community in the future to carry out this work? Fewer Nurses. We already have a nursing crisis and should be making the training and the job as attractive as possible so we get the right candidates. The good ones all have choices.

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  • @ Anonymous 22 April, 2016 3:00 am

    You say these figures are "never repayable" but that is not the case. The government has committed to "actively managing" loan repayments to ensure they eventually add up, which means they can and will change the repayment terms at any time and in any fashion that suits them and because it's not a normal loan contract you will have no legal recourse. The Sutton Trust describes student loans now as "writing a blank cheque", and with respect if you're in favour of that, I have a bridge and some magic beans to sell you.

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  • Anthony Johnson

    To the first year who thinks that this is a good idea: student loan repayments will effectively be a pay cut post-qualification. That's why it's a bad idea, the government's HE green paper sees attempts to remove the 30 year cap on student loan repayments.

    That means that you'll be paying off this debt forever. This was precisely what happened in America and sees students being jailed for not paying off student loan debt that is collectively worth 1 trillion dollars. These students, now in their mid 40s-50s have never been able to afford a house, so they have rented all their lives and never been able to invest in a mortgage.

    Add in the Council of Deans for Healths attempts to make these loans payable by trusts in return for 10 years of labour as a nurse and you see that it potentially creates massive deficits to trusts on top of what they already have.

    That's why we in the Bursary Or Bust campaign pointed out that it would be cheaper to move abroad to somewhere with higher wages and pay off our debt that way. The loss of the bursary removes the loyalty nurses feel to the NHS and make that more likely - a massive exodus of nurses when we have a staffing shortage.

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  • Anthony Johnson

    Also, those who tout the apprenticeship as a route into nursing for mature applicants. Think outside the idealistic theory.

    Who will organise the apprenticeship? Trusts and local education authorities. Which section of society is receiving the greatest cuts? Local government - i.e. local education authorities and the trusts that they are responsible for funding.

    When post-registration education funding is falling off the map due to budget constraints, how long do you think we have before these apprenticeships education is being cut. That is incredibly dangerous and sets us up for the idea that - 'dangerous nurse kills patients in new scandal!'

    Even though these apprentices did nothing wrong but trust the system, the media will attack them for the cuts that we enforce on their education. It won't be their fault, it will be the fault of the government which cut their funding because there will not be a national system of education it will be devolved. If a nursing faculty fails to produce competent nurses we can take the course off of them - effectively fining them. If a trust does that, we fine them, creating a bigger blackhole in an unstable system.

    That's why the apprenticeships and nurse associate route are dangerous.

    Not to mention the reality that if you're from a lower socio-economic background. A parent. Mature etc etc you're not good enough for a degree. It's only bright shiny school-leavers who deserve the chance to have a degree. That's why on top of the practicalities of the apprenticeship route I totally disagree with a two-tiered education system.

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