Nurses have issued a further call for the government to reconsider its “appalling” decision to scrap healthcare student bursaries in England at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress.
RCN members voted unanimously in support of a motion that urged the government to work with the union for other options to fund future student training.
During a debate this morning, nurses raised concerns over the lack of mentors and clinical placements to support the additional 10,000 training places the government claims will be created by 2020 under the reforms.
“We are struggling to get meaningful placements at present and there are very few mentors in many cases”
Nurses also reiterated fears that many people would be deterred from training due to debts from taking out loans that would amount to around £50,000, with one claiming it would take a band 5 registrant more than 280 years to pay off.
It was also claimed nurses should in fact be paid for their time in clinical practice because during this time they were working.
Student nurse Kathryn Davies described her bursary as a “lifeline” and said mature students such as herself would find the prospect of debts “incredibly daunting and stressful”.
Student nurse Peter Condon meanwhile added: “Working at an average pay rate of £23,000 it would take 284 years to pay off that debt.”
“Working at an average pay rate of £23,000 it would take 284 years to pay off that debt”
Maura Buchanan, a former RCN president, stressed concerns about placements. “Tell me where we are going get the [10,000 extra] placements,” she said.
“We are struggling to get meaningful placements at present and there are very few mentors in many cases. The NHS is struggling, the independent sector can’t support them,” said Ms Buchanan.
“What is needed here is proper consultation. Let’s get workforce planning right and get the numbers right and the placements right before we start tinkering with the money,” she added.
The carried motion, submitted by the RCN’s students’ committee, said: “That this meeting of congress is appalled by the unilateral decision to abolish student nurse bursaries and calls on government to work with the RCN to look at all options and agree future student nurse funding arrangements.”