The Royal College of Nursing has taken the decision to advise its student members to “carefully consider the implications” of taking part in next week’s walkout over plans to end the bursary.
On 10 February students across the UK are planning to walk out of their clinical placements for an hour from 10am to 11am.
The protest, organised by the campaign group Save NHS Bursaries, follows two public demonstrations against the government’s ambition to replace bursaries for student nurses with a system of loans.
- Students to walk out of placements over bursary plans
- Junior doctors to strike for 24 hours next week
The walkout is planned to coincide with the junior doctor’s strike, which is due to take place the same day.
However, the RCN has issued a carefully-worded statement suggesting that it would prefer its student members not to take part in the protest.
It said: “The RCN is aware of members’ anger over proposed cuts to student funding in England and that some are considering walking out over the issue alongside junior doctors next month.
“While the RCN wants to support members in meaningfully campaigning against plans to scrap the bursary, it believes there are other effective ways of influencing decision makers,” it added, saying “political campaigning can be effective”.
For example, the college encouraged members to contact their local MPs and “let them know what abolishing the bursary will mean for nursing students”.
In addition, the college said more than 1,300 students had submitted their stories about financial hardship and reliance on the bursary, which had been made into a book and sent to key politicians.
It also highlighted the petition that resulted in a parliamentary debate earlier this month as well as the two London marches.
For those “considering walking out in protest, even for an hour,” the RCN reminded students they should get prior permission from their manager, mentor or university tutor.
It warned that walking out without consent may jeopardise their current bursary, receipt of which was conditional on students attending their course unless permission to be away has been granted.
Students walking out of placement will “lose important clinical placement hours that are needed to complete their nursing course”, added the RCN.
Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to abolish the bursary in England and make nursing students pay tuition fees last November.