The removal of student bursaries in England could have an “unsettling effect” on the number and quality of people applying to train as nurses in the early years of the policy, the independent body that reviews NHS pay has warned.
In its report looking at NHS staff wages, published today, the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) described the bursary for student nurses and midwives, as an “incentive” for those applying to courses.
Nurses qualifying under the new funding system – which will see student loans introduced from 2017 for both tuition fees and maintenance costs – will effectively receive reduced salaries due to loan repayments, the PRB noted.
“The impact of the removal of student nurse bursaries in England [must be kept] under observation”
NHS Pay Review Body
The body – which advises ministers on annual pay increases for health service staff – said it meant the overall employment package offered by the NHS, plus medium to long term salary prospects for workers, would become an “important factor” in attracting “high calibre students who are choosing between courses and career options”.
While the move to a loans system could “over time” increase nurse training places to create a better match between demand and supply of nurses, it said the impact on the quality and volume of students in the first few years needed to be kept “under observation”.
The PRB said the Department of Health and workforce planning body Health Education England should be responsible for monitoring the issue.
“It will be important for the Department of Health and Health Education England to monitor the impact of the removal of student nurse bursaries in England on applications for training places, the numbers entering the profession and the quality of students,” it said.
In its pay recommendations for 2016 to 2017, the PRB said nurses, midwives and all other NHS workers in the UK should receive a 1% pay rise from April.
The recommendation has been accepted by governments in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and is being considered in Wales.
However, unions described the 1% pay increase as “disappointing” and said the boost did not make up for shortfalls in NHS pay over the past few years.