The editors of three of the country’s leading nursing journals, including Nursing Times, have written to the prime minister calling on her to reverse the decision to scrap bursaries for student nurses.
They have made a last ditch plea to Theresa May to row back from the reforms that will see bursaries replaced by a system of loans for student nurses and midwives in England from next year.
“We stand united in asking you to think again over student bursaries”
Nursing Times editor Jenni Middleton, along with senior colleagues at the Nursing in Practice and the Nursing Standard, warned of the “deep concerns” held by many in the profession about the plans.
“They have told us that it will result in hardship for new nurses embarking on their careers and that – despite what is intended – the plans will lead to fewer nurses and midwives available to care for patients,” they said.
“This is why we have taken the unprecedented step of writing to you collectively to ask that you instruct your ministers to look at the plans again,” they wrote in the letter, which has been jointly published today by the three publications.
The editors reiterated previous concerns that saddling graduate nurses with university debt will badly affect the numbers who wish to join the profession, given its long hours, short holidays and comparatively low pay.
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The move to loans represented a gamble, they warned, given the current need for more nurses against a background of national recruitment shortages.
On a similar note, they also highlighted the “great uncertainty” among many overseas nurses working in the NHS over the plans for Britain to quit the European Union.
“This nursing workforce is a precious resource that is at risk of being undermined by these proposals. We appeal to you to intervene and ask for a full review of the impact of both Brexit and scrapping the bursary,” they wrote.
“Though we are editors of rival publications we stand united in asking you to think again over student bursaries if you wish to leave a legacy on the NHS to be proud of,” they stated.
The editors of the three journals said they would be “very keen” to meet with Ms May or a Department of Health minister to “discuss possible solutions”.
The government confirmed last month that it was going ahead with its controversial plans to introduce loans for pre-registration student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
It has previously predicted that an additional 10,000 extra training places would be created by the reforms, because universities would no longer be constrained by central bursary funding on the number of course places they could offer.
- Update: the letter was published in the The Times newspaper on 25 August 2016.