Ministers have repeated a commitment to continue giving student nurses in Wales a bursary next year, but with the condition that they work for at least two years in the county after qualifying.
But the government noted that long term arrangements for student nurses in Wales would be influenced by findings from a review of higher education funding by Sir Ian Diamond, which was published last month.
“It is important that any enhanced investment made in training is combined with a commitment to invest in Wales by those who benefit”
Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething today confirmed that NHS bursaries for eligible student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will continue to be available in Wales in 2017-18.
Unlike in England where the bursary will end, those starting their training in September 2017, who choose to study an eligible health related programme, will be able to access the funding.
However, the bursary will be based upon individuals committing in advance to taking up the opportunity to work in Wales, post qualification, for a period of two years, said Mr Gething in a statement (see attached document below).
It echoes similar sentiments made by ministers in Scotland earlier in the year.
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Mr Gething said: “I believe that to ensure we have the workforce we need, it is important that any enhanced investment made in training and development is combined with an opportunity to work in Wales and a commitment to invest in Wales by those who benefit.
“Longer term arrangements for student support for health related subjects will be considered alongside the recommendations arising from the independent review of higher education funding and student finance led by Professor Diamond,” he added.
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“We’re taking positive action to attract more health professionals across the country and throughout the UK to come to Wales to train, work and live. We will continue to invest in the education and training of individuals wanting to work in the NHS,” said Mr Gething.
The Diamond report, published in November, recommended that government finances be targeted at student maintenance grants, at the expense of tuition fees.
It proposed a £1,000 non-means-tested maintenance grant be made available to all full-time Welsh undergraduates, together with an income-related maintenance grant.
However, it recommended that tuition fees should be paid for via a publicly supported loan system, up to a maximum of £9,000.
Responding to the announcement, the Royal College of Nursing said it welcomed the commitment that the bursary and student education fees would continue to be available in Wales in 2017-18.
Tina Donnelly, director RCN Wales, said: ”An investment in student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals is an investment in our future in health care in Wales.
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“This extremely positive news will encourage prospective nursing and midwifery students who will not have to take out loans to fund their education. Student nurses play an important part in the everyday operating of the NHS,” she said.
She added: “Moreover, the RCN is waiting to see the effects of abolishing the student bursary in England. We will be observing the variation in nursing student recruitment across the four countries of the UK.
“In the new year, the RCN in Wales will endeavour to provide further evidence to the National Assembly for Wales to support retaining funding for nursing and midwifery education in Wales,” said Ms Donnelly.
Helen Rogers, Royal College of Midwives director for Wales, said: “This is very welcome news that will bring stability, certainty and much needed financial support for those looking to train as midwives next year. I applaud the Welsh government for not going down the same road as England on this issue.
“It is vital for student midwives that the bursary is retained,” she said. “Around one in four student midwives already carry debt from a first degree and would not be able to train as a midwife without the bursary. It would also affect those from lower income families and nature students from entering the profession.
“I now urge the Welsh government to commit to ensuring that student midwives of the future see midwifery as an affordable career choice beyond 2017-18 to ensure the future supply of midwives for Wales,” she added.