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Majority of nurses 'would not have trained without bursary'


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”

Janet Davies

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

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.

Janet Davies

Janet Davies

Janet 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.


Readers' comments (10)

  • Too right! It would have put me off knowing I would have to spend most of my career paying off debts of up to £50k on top of having to pay rising NMC costs and union costs

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  • There's no way I could have afforded to study without the bursary.
    Instead of scrapping support altogether, why don't they 'charge fees' for tuition but give a living bursary, but then write off the debt if the student works in the NHS for a minimum of 3 years post-qualification? It ensures the country is benefiting from paying to train nurses without making it impossible for many that come from low-income households to qualify at all.

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  • Ha I would never have trained if it wasn't for the bursary ! and it's ok the whole profession will continue to suffer as the government continues to be allowed to destroy nursing and the NHS !

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  • I wish I knew who voted to keep this government in. I'd bang their heads together.

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  • The training process is bad enough as it is, i would say a mixture of slave labour and a torture- literally my only incentive to complete the course now is the bursary. Needless to say I would not have undertaken the course without it, knowing what I know now about the gruelling and soul destroying nature of it. Sorry. - A. Secondyearnursingstudent

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  • I'm not sure what percentage of students are mature students, but would think it likely that mature students would be put off nursing if borrowing £30000 plus was required

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  • With the reforms students may be financially better off in their student years by comparison to student nurses now in respect of the amount of money they receive. But it is conveniently overlooked that this inevitably means a higher level of debt when they qualify, potentially around £48k in tuition and maintenance for a 3 year course, and will subsequently spend their entire career paying it back through their salary. It is one thing to have this level of debt if you are walking into a career with high earning potential - e.g. law, business & finance - but when you are starting out at £21k in a profession with slow financial progression, capped/nil increases, and no bonuses, it is just not an attractive prospect.

    The claim that the reforms will allow a further 10,000 people to be trained means nothing. The capacity to train more people doesn't mean there will be more people, it just means more training places - but if nursing itself is not an attractive option, who is going to fill those places?

    Nursing is a vocation - people don't choose nursing just to go to university, or to get a degree, they choose nursing because they want to care for people. But even vocations have to have a limit, and in this current financial climate people quite reasonably have to calculate whether their vocational desire to care for others is going to have sufficient financial backing to enable them even to care for themselves.

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  • "Nursing is a vocation - people don't choose nursing just to go to university, or to get a degree"

    With views like this, you're pretty much guaranteed to work in a profession "starting out at £21k in a profession with slow financial progression".

    Until the people working in the profession themselves start to demand recognition for the knowledge and skills they bring to bear (beyond just caring) then nursing will continue to take retrograde steps in this country.

    And let's be clear - this is pretty much limited to England. In other developed countries (US, Canada, Australia, most of Western Europe), nurses have no problem being treated on a par with other academic disciplines, and their pay, recognition and career pathways reflect that.

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  • I was a nursing student back in the days before bursaries were invented. Then I received the equivalent of an HCA wage in my first year and my salary doubled by the time I was in my third year. It was probably equivalent to a band 4. I had access to subsidised staff canteens that operated 24 hours a day and provided good food so cooking was optional. I lived in staff accommodation at first but when I moved out my London weighting paid my rent in a shared flat with a little change. I didn’t have to have a job to make ends meet. My job was to work on the wards and to study. In return I was part of the nursing workforce and counted in the numbers. When I qualified I didn’t need a preceptorship year because I’d spent three years working out what it was to be a registered nurse. When I red Kramer’s “Reality shock” about how newly registered nurses struggled with the reality of clinical practice I didn’t understand it. I understand it now.

    We need a hybrid model of education that takes the best from the old and the best from the new. We need to properly prepare tomorrow’s nurses for clinical practice. We need to nurture and support them but also need to enable them to become part of the team and to learn how to take responsibility for patients throughout their educational journey.

    It is an honour and a privilege to nurse but not everyone has the ability to nurse and some things cannot be taught. So we should select tomorrow’s nurses on the basis of aptitude, educate and train to enable them to develop skills and knowledge.

    This means that we don’t open the gates of the profession to those who can afford to take on debt and slam them in the faces of those who would make wonderful nurses.

    Nursing is not like any other profession, we learn by doing as well as being educated. We spend 37.5 hours a week in our student roles and then we study. We need to pay nurses a living wage and provide them with a cost free education if in return they agree to work for the sponsoring employer for a minimum period.

    Finally we need to value nurses and to respect them and to treat them well.

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  • Well said Linda I couldn't have put it better myself.

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