Ministers have pledged that the student nurse bursary will be “protected” in Scotland, while also announcing an expansion in course places and financial support for students with children.
However, the announcement was met with a lukewarm response from unions, which described the rise in student places as “modest” and the support package as a “step in the right direction”.
“We must to do more to build capacity into the future health and social care workforce”
The number of bursary-funded university places for those starting nursing and midwifery training will increase by 4.7% in 2017-18, said the Scottish government today.
As a result, this will bring the total intake to 3,360 places, which the government noted was the fifth successive annual increase.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon also unveiled an increase in financial support for nursing and midwifery students with dependants “to help parents and carers into the workforce”.
An extra £3m is to be invested in supporting those with children or dependants, helping up to 1,000 of “our most in need students”, she said, while stating that the bursary was also to be protected.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I want to restate my commitment to protecting the non-means tested, non-repayable nursing and midwifery student bursary – something we believe is essential to ensuring a steady supply of trainees into the profession.
RCN Congress 2016
“This stands in stark contrast to the short-sighted actions of the UK government, where free nursing tuition and bursaries have been removed entirely, with early indications showing this is impacting on the number of students applying,” she said, referring to policy in England.
She added that, while staff levels in NHS Scotland were at a “record high”, rising demand on services meant “we must to do more to build capacity into the future health and social care workforce”.
“The improved financial support for students with responsibility for a child or a family member can help these students overcome some of the barriers to pursuing a career in nursing or midwifery and is based on what students have told us about the challenges they face,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon has previously pledged to maintain the bursary for student nurses and midwives, at least in the short term. However, the findings of a review of future proposals is yet to be revealed.
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The Scottish government highlighted today that it had “worked with students, unions and professional bodies to review how the nursery and midwifery bursary works”.
The measures announced today had been “informed” by the review and would come into effect from 2017-18. They followed the setting up last year of a new hardship fund to “provide a safety net” for students most in need, noted the government in its statement.
“The figures released today represent a modest uplift in student nurses”
It added that ministers would publish proposals later in the year to “enhance and improve support” for nursing and midwifery students from 2018-19.
However, the Royal College of Nursing accused the Scottish government of “failing to futureproof” the nursing workforce by not training enough nurses.
RCN Scotland associate director Ellen Hudson said: “The figures released today represent a modest uplift in student nurses being trained from 2017-18. They do not reflect the significant uplifts which RCN Scotland believes are required to meet the country’s nursing need.”
Bursary ‘protected’ for Scottish student nurses in 2017-18
She also stated that to obtain even the uplift announced by the government today had been a “real challenge for all involved, but there is more work needed in future years”.
“Scotland needs more student nurses, and the resources and budget to ensure that their education needs can be met,” said Ms Hudson. “The Scottish government is failing to futureproof the nursing workforce.”
She said the new intake figures represented 142 extra student nurses across Scotland in 2017-18, equating to 110 more adult nurses, 22 more mental health nurses, and 10 more children’s nurses.
“It is not enough to say that there are more nurses, or that today’s student intake figures are the highest in years,” she said. ”The question is whether the number meets the demand. If Scotland doesn’t have the nurses, patients won’t get the care.”
“Every student nurse should be able to finish their studies without falling into hardship”
For example, Ms Hudson also warned that the student intake for learning disability nursing was “set to remain the same”.
“At present, demand outstrips the supply of these nurses so the current model is not working,” she said. “A review of learning disability nursing education provision across Scotland is needed before next year’s intake figures are worked out.”
Regarding the support package for students with dependants, she said the government announcement was a “step in the right direction”.
“The additional funding will help some of Scotland’s nursing students, but the allowances are only one part of the support package,” she said. “The bottom line is that every student nurse should be able to finish their studies without falling into hardship.”
The Royal College of Midwives was more positive and backed the increase in the number of student midwives in training for the next year, protection for student bursaries, free tuition fees and additional help for the most needy midwifery and nursing students.
“This is good news for Scotland’s maternity services”
Mary Ross Davie
Mary Ross Davie, RCM director for Scotland, said: “This is good news for Scotland’s maternity services and for those looking to become midwives. The additional financial help will go a long way also towards supporting those from less financially well off backgrounds to enter midwifery.
“A historically high birthrate plus increasingly complex births mean that our maternity services have to work very hard to maintain good standards of care as demands on the service increase,” she said. “The Scottish government are recognising this.”
She added: “This is another step in the right direction and the RCM will continue working with the Scottish government to ensure our maternity services have the staff and resources they need to deliver the best possible care to mothers, babies and their families.”
Enhancements to financial support for 2017-18 academic year, in addition to standard bursary:
- Single Parents Allowance to be increased by £1,000 – from £1,303 to £2,303 per academic year
- Childcare Allowance to be increased by £1,250 – up to £1,216 is available currently to meet the costs of registered childcare, this will increase to £2,466 per year
- Dependants Allowance to be increased by £1,000 per year – maximum amounts that eligible students can receive through this income based allowance are currently:
- £2,640 for a spouse or cohabiting partner
- £2,640 for the first child where there is no dependent husband or wife, or other dependent adult
- £557 for each other dependent child
- The maximum available for the first dependent will increase to £3,640
The total cost of funding pre-registration nursing and midwifery training and the Nursing & Midwifery Student Bursary is approximately £130m
2017-18 nursing and midwifery student intake:
- The total recommended pre-registration nursing and midwifery intake will rise by 4.7% to 3,360 places
- This equates to an increase of 151 places across adult, mental health, learning disabilities, children’s nursing, and midwifery specialties
- An additional 60 training places will be allocated to universities in the north-east of Scotland
- Over the last five years the student nursing and midwifery intakes have risen by 24%.
- There were a total of 9,936 nurses and midwives in training in Scotland at October 2015