More than 10,000 people have signed a petition to reinstate bursaries for nursing students.
The petition was launched by West Lancashire borough councillor and mother-of-two Liz Savage, who is vying to secure a debate on the issue in parliament.
“I hope the government will listen and realise the importance of looking after our NHS”
The 44-year-old told Nursing Times she was motivated to take action due to concerns about falling nurse student numbers and increasing nurse vacancies.
The government announced in 2016 that NHS bursaries for nursing students in England would be scrapped and replaced with loans.
Figures show applications to study nursing degrees in the country have since fallen by a third and the number accepted onto nursing courses has dropped by 8%.
Meanwhile, nursing vacancies across the NHS in England have risen to more than 41,000.
Critics say the funding reform has led to a severe decline in interest from mature students.
liz savage three
Source: Sam Fulstow
Ms Savage studied to become a teacher in 2007 and she said she could not have done it without financial support through the graduate training programme.
“I know it’s much more difficult for people to retrain when they are older so things like the nursing bursary and the teacher bursary are really important,” said Ms Savage.
“It’s also really important because I know a lot of older people are put off because they are more debt adverse,” she added.
Ms Savage is Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Southport and she said the local health services in that area struggled to attract staff due to its location on the coast.
“Generally younger nurses want to train in the big hospitals in Manchester, Liverpool and London because they want to be in a hub as most students do,” she noted.
Ms Savage said nursing students “deserved” to get financial help because it was difficult for them to juggle part-time work around their placements and workload.
At the time of writing the petition had received 13,053 signatures. Because it has passed the 10,000 mark the government is required to issue a response. If it hits 100,000 it will be considered for debate in parliament.
Ms Savage said she wanted to see all NHS health bursaries reinstated.
She added: “I hope the government will listen and realise the importance of looking after our NHS.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said it would respond to the petition in due course.
Ms Savage joined Labour when she was 17 and became a councillor for the first time when she was 22 before taking a break to start a family.
She said she was driven to return to politics eight years ago and campaign for health care improvements after her father, Dennis Carey, was misdiagnosed with dementia instead of a brain tumour. He died in November 2010.
- The petition can be found on the parliament petition website.