Two thirds of nurses would not have studied to join the profession if they had been unable to receive a bursary for their tuition fees and living costs and had to take out a full loan instead, a survey has suggested.
The Royal College of Nursing, which carried out the survey of 17,000 of its members, warned the findings indicated government plans to scrap bursaries in England next year would put off thousands of potential nurses.
“The message from nurses is loud and clear - these proposals would reduce the supply of nursing staff and damage patient care”
Around 80% of nurses taking part in the survey said they believed the changes would have a negative impact on patient care.
In addition, almost 90% said they either “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with the plans, which will apply to all new nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals from August 2017.
The survey also revealed 80% of nurse educators did not agree with the plans.
Meanwhile, according to 80% of respondents, registered nurses would not have the capacity to mentor the extra students that the government has said would be trained under the reforms.
“These proposals represent a huge gamble… and the government has not properly evaluated the many risks involved”
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The message from nurses is loud and clear – these proposals would reduce the supply of nursing staff and damage patient care.
“These proposals represent a huge gamble with the future of the nursing workforce and the government has not properly evaluated the many risks involved,” she added.
She reiterated the RCN’s call for the government to pause its plans and develop alternative options for healthcare education funding.
“The government must listen to these concerns and work with the RCN and others to identify a fair, effective and sustainable funding system for nursing education,” said Ms Davies.
Plans to scrap bursaries were announced last November as part of the government’s spending review.
The government has claimed the reforms would allow up to 10,000 extra students to be trained by 2020 and help ease workforce shortages.
It also said students would be financially better off under the reforms, which would allow trainees to access up to 25% more money for living costs through the loans system.
Students and healthcare workers will march from St Thomas’ Hospital to Downing Street in London this afternoon to oppose the plans.