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Bursary removal ‘punishes’ student nurses, says Corbyn


Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused the government of “punishing” student nurses by bringing in reforms to scrap bursaries in England and introduce loans instead.

The changes would exacerbate the existing nurse shortage, he said, which has already led to nine out of ten hospitals currently being understaffed.

Speaking in the House of Commons during today’s prime minister’s questions he said people would be put off nurse training due to the prospect of debt, especially those who were already paying back a loan from a first degree.

“The repayments will amount to an effective pay cut of £900…Why is [David Cameron] punishing them when we need these nurses within our NHS?”

Jeremy Corbyn

However, prime minister David Cameron responded by saying the funding reforms would uncap the number of training places universities can offer, resulting in in 10,000 more.

Under the current system, two thirds of those that apply to become a student nurse are turned away due to restricted numbers of course places, he said.

But Mr Corbyn noted the system being proposed was different in that it meant nurses paying back around £900 a year in loan repayments out of their wages.

He said: “I want to ask [the prime minister] about one particular group that are being targeted by this government now – student nurses.

“Two out of three that turn up wanting to be nurses are sent away by our current system, so we are bringing people in from Bulgaria or Romania [instead]”

David Cameron

“The repayments that student nurse will have to pay when qualified amount to an effective pay cut of £900 for each nurse. Why is he punishing them when we need these nurses within our NHS?”

Mr Corbyn referred to a student mental health nurse, Vicky, who would not have been able to afford to train without a bursary.

“She is someone who we need in our NHS, we need as a mental health nurse – we are losing her skill, her dedication, her aspiration to help the entire community,” he said.

In response, Mr Cameron said: “But two out of three Vickys that turn up wanting to be nurses are sent away by our current system, so we are bringing people in from Bulgaria or Romania or the other side of the world to do nursing jobs we should be training British people to do.

“The British people want to train as nurses, the NHS wants those nurses, this government will fund those nurses so let’s help them train and improve our health service.”

Student funding reforms for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals were announced by chancellor George Osborne in his spending review at the end of last year.

They will see the removal of bursaries for tuition fees and living costs for new students starting from autumn 2017.

The announcement has so far sparked two protest marches by student nurses in London and a debate in the Commons.

A government consultation on how to implement the proposals is expected in the next few weeks.


Readers' comments (5)

  • pay student nurses a wage

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  • You can only train as many nurses as you have mentors, at our uni the lecture halls are already full so how they doing to fit more nurses in- it's a excuse to cut spending.

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  • This has been inspired, promoted and facillitated by nurse leaders and academics. The principle being that uncapping the numbers allowed to train from the bursary system will bring more into the profession. However the way that has been set up means that the potential for increased entry is correct but at he cost to each and every student as they will now leave with a massive debt hanging over them which will impact on their ability to earn, mortgage, seek loans for further study. It also means students will be paying to work full time hours to train, at all hours of the day, all days of the year. It is a way of burdening would be students. There are alternatives,eg. increase the bursary application potential, maintain the bursary limit and open extra places to self funding/loan, move the burden in whole or part to the first employer to repay on starting the first job.
    So utterly unimpressed by nurse leaders and academics who have been funded to their lofty places but are now prompting a heavy psychological burden on their contemporaries let alone a financial and physical one

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  • I was given a bursary and although the bursary does limit places, they should open the places up and increase the numbers receiving them. Student nurses work very hard - I've mentored several bright, hard-working and very well educated nurses who will work over and above many staff to prove themselves - their bursaries shouldn't be cut.

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  • Firstly,student nurses work directly with the NHS team,and contribute greatly to that team in many ways, both directly by providing care, and indirectly by sharing new practice, questioning and improving care. They do have supernumerary status, which does release them from practice to observe, learn and reflect on practice, but the majority of time is spent working alongside the healthcare professional.
    The removal of the bursary may increase numbers of potential students taking up nursing as a career, Mr Cameron is correct,however students need clinical placements , mentors and a good learning environment to learn. Mentors and placements are already stretched in many areas, where does Mr Cameron believe these additional students will be placed to learn, with experienced mentors and placement capacity decreasing ?
    We do need to look at new strategies to develop new nurses, but taking the bursary away will not necessarily increase nursing numbers,and may actually deter those people the profession needs (e.g mature caring individuals )from applying as they would not be able to support their self ( and family) without the financial support of the bursary.
    Recognition should be given to the students for their contributions to the NHS and they should not be penalised with cutting the bursary.


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