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Student bursary removal to go ahead next year, DH confirms

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Plans to remove bursaries and introduce a loans system for pre-registration student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in England from next year are to go ahead, the government has confirmed.

In its response to a consultation on the proposals published today, the Department of Health said it would however offer tuition and maintenance bursaries for a “capped number” of pre-registration postgraduate students starting in 2017-18.

This would be a “transitional arrangement only for new entrants in 2017 until a longer-term solution is finalised from 2018 onwards”, it said.

“More comprehensive work is required to design a system for administering clinical placements which will be fit for purpose”

Government response to student bursary consultation

It reiterated that students planning to undertake nursing, midwifery and allied health professional subjects as a second undergraduate degree would be able to access loans on the same terms as students studying for a first degree.

In its consultation document, the governement’s plans stated a student who chooses to take a maximum tuition and maintenance loan for three years would graduate with student loan borrowing of between £47,712 and £59,106 depending on the course studied, location and whether or not the student lives in the parental home.

Repayment would be required to start once a graduate was earning £21,000 and constitute 9% of income over that figure. Repayments would stop if their salary dropped below £21,000 a year and the balance written off if they have not paid back their loan after 30 years.

In today’s response to the consultation – which attracted around 1,750 responses – the DH said it had made “a number of provisions” to reflect the fact healthcare students have to spend part of their training on clinical placements, which makes these courses “unique” compared with other subjects.

These provisions include additional funding of £1,000 each year for students with child dependants “to reflect that students undertaking clinical placements may have higher childcare costs than the wider student population”.

In response to concerns that under the loans system students would have to fund £303 themselves before being able to claim for travel and accommodation expenses, the DH said it would cover this initial payment.

The DH said it would also cover the costs of secondary accommodation for students attending clinical placements “if the case for educational provision and value for money is demonstrated”.

“We’ve listened to feedback and we will provide extra funding to cover additional expenses like travel and more support for students with children”

Government response to student bursary consultation

Concerns have previously been raised by nurses that the additional 10,000 extra training places the government said would be created from the reforms could not be supported by the same increase in clinical placements due to capacity issues.

In its response to the consultation, the government reiterated workforce planning body Health Education England would continue to commission the minimum number of placements when the reforms are brought in from August 2017.

It said universities would “be free to create additional placements on top of those” in partnership with local trusts.

“It is the government’s view that more comprehensive work is required to design a system for administering clinical placements which will be fit for purpose,” said the DH, adding proposed options would be published in autumn 2016.

In the foreword to the document, new health minister Philip Dunne reiterated previous government statements that the move to loans would ensure students have up to 25% more money for living costs, that universities could provide more training places and that this would lead to extra staff for the NHS.

He said the DH would monitor application rates to courses and “make interventions where necessary”, in particular for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Announcing the plans, Mr Dunne said: “Currently, two thirds of people who apply to become a nurse aren’t accepted for training – we are committed to plans which could mean up to 10,000 more home-grown nurses, midwives and allied health professionals by the end of this parliament, with those in training getting around 25% more financial support while they study.”

“We’ve listened to feedback from the consultation and as a result will provide extra funding to help cover additional expenses like travel and more support for students with children. We will work with the Royal College of Nursing and other partners in taking this forward.”

  • 13 Comments

Readers' comments (13)

  • The removal of the bursary is long overdue. It places a cap on the number of students who can be recruited and thus indirectly contributes to the shortage in nurses. The placements issue could maybe be resolved by cutting the amount of time nursing students have to spend in placement - the current 50/50 split has always seemed excessive to me and the law of diminishing returns means placement time can actually be counterproductive as students imagine they've learned all the need to know about an area and go into autopilot.

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  • Reduce placement time are you sure?? Whilst I am an avid supporter of the theoretcal foundation of nursing practice. I feel that it is imperative that student nurses are exposed to what their future will be. Not a book but a patient! Given the removal of bursary couple with someone saying that 50/50 placement is "counterproductive" I cannot help but sing " there will be trouble ahead".

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  • I can't see nursing being a very attractive proposition when you have to work for nothing. Longer term times than other students and at the end a fairly mediocre pay remuneration. It has been suggested that ward time is cut to offset the lack of funding. In my experience that would be a disastrous, if not dangerous decision. Nursing is a hands on profession and students require hands on experience. If as a mature student I hadn't received a bursery I would not have been able to complete my nursing degree. This is a backward step for the nursing profession.

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