Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the prime minister to put the decision to scrap student nurse bursaries to a vote in the House of Commons.
His comments came as part of a debate by MPs on yesterday’s Queen’s speech, which set out the government’s legislation plans for the coming year.
“Will the prime minister confirm that that decision will be put to the house and voted on in this chamber?”
Mr Corbyn noted there had been no mention of any legislation to improve the NHS, despite the service being in “record deficit”. “Perhaps the prime minister can belatedly adopt the central medical principle of first doing no harm,” said Mr Corbyn.
He pointed to the fact that “unfortunately” there was some pending legislation that would affect the health service – the legal changes required to cut bursaries for student nurses in England and introduce loans instead.
“Will the prime minister confirm that that decision will be put to the house and voted on in this chamber? It is opposed by all the unions involved in the NHS and the royal colleges representing nurses and midwives,” he said.
In his response to Mr Cobyn’s comments on the government’s legislative programme, prime minister David Cameron did not address the Labour leader’s concerns about the removal of bursaries.
During the debate that followed, Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch and chair of the Commons’ public accounts committee, described NHS workforce planning as “dire”.
She pointed to a vacancy rate of more than 7% for nurses, midwives and health visitors and warned that, with GP services being “squeezed” and acute trusts “bursting”, the government would have to better lay out the financial implications of a “seven-day service” before legislating for it.
“Currently, the seven-day NHS is a notion, a promise, a hope, but the evidence shows that it is not planned, it is not funded and it is not realistic,” she said, echoing the findings of a recent PAC report.