“Little progress” seems to have been made on developing a new support scheme for postgraduates choosing to study areas of nursing with the worst recruitment difficulties, a union has warned.
It is concerned that there is now very little time left for the new financial support system to benefit postgraduate student nurses starting courses in 2018-19.
The scheme was announced by the government at the start of May as a move intended to partially mitigate losing the student bursary in specialties struggling with falling numbers.
- Postgrad student nurses in struggling specialties to receive ‘golden hellos’
- Cautious welcome for postgrad grants from affected nursing groups
Undergraduate students stopped receiving bursaries from August 2017 and ministers revealed plans in February to extend the policy to postgraduates from this August.
Ministers said that, under the new support scheme, postgraduates choosing to study parts of nursing with the worst recruitment difficulties would be offered “golden hellos” worth £10,000.
Those studying mental health, learning disability, and district nursing were highlighted by the government as being in line for the new targeted support package worth around £9m.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, Dave Munday, lead professional officer for mental health at Unite, called for urgent clarification on the details surrounding the new policy.
“It seems that in the reply sent to me two months later, little progress has been made”
But not much has changed during the two months since the announcement, according to Mr Munday, who’s union includes the Mental Health Nurses Association.
He wrote to health minister Steve Barclay shortly after the scheme was unveiled with specific questions on how the policy would work and when money would become available.
“Although the announcement was made ‘late in the day’, which would hamper potential students, and universities, taking advantage of any scheme, it seems that in the reply sent to me two months later, little progress has been made,” he said.
“The minister could not provide any answers to the seven questions that I asked at the time and the promise of officials getting in touch two weeks ago, has also come to nothing,” he added.
Mr Munday had asked when the golden hellos would be made available to individuals and if they would be available in “good time” for students starting courses in 2018-19 to take advantage.
He also queried whether the money would be available in “good time to influence those that have discounted starting their nurse education in 2018 to change their minds”.
In addition, he asked how the £9.1m would be divided across the three specialities mentioned and whether funding would potentially be extended to other groups, such as health visitors.
“I have asked my officials to undertake some further detail on the proposals and how best they can be implemented”
Lastly, he asked the minister if an equality impact assessment had been carried out to ensure that the new golden hellos “do not disadvantage” any nursing group.
However, in a response letter dated 10 July, Mr Barclay said that work was still currently being carried out on the details of the new scheme.
“We are looking to engage with stakeholders on this and I have asked my officials to undertake some further detail on the proposals and how best they can be implemented,” he said in the letter shared with Nursing Times.
“That work, which covers a number of your questions, is ongoing and my officials will be able to discuss this with you in further detail and they will be in touch with you following this letter,” said the minister.
He added: “These payment incentives offer £10,000 to future postgraduates who successfully complete loan-funded courses starting in the 2018-19 academic year and then go on to work in specific fields of the health and care sector including mental health, learning disability and community, including district nursing.”