Changes to student nurse funding announced by the UK government last week will have “inevitable implications” for Wales, according to the Welsh Government.
Chancellor George Osborne revealed in his spending review last week that student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will in future no longer receive bursaries and will instead be required to take out a loan for university tuition fees and living costs.
”Once the details become clearer, the minister will consider the implications of the Chancellor’s statement on Wales”
The Welsh Government said that, while the chancellor’s announcement only applied to England, it was now in discussion with the Department of Health and the Treasury to assess the potential impact on Wales.
Student nurses in Wales currently have the same system of funding as those in England, meaning they receive free undergraduate training.
Last week’s announcement was the “first communication” the Welsh Government said it had received about the changes in England.
“With very few details to go on from the information in the spending review, it is difficult to assess the potential impact of the chancellor’s announcement. Officials are in discussion with the Department of Health and the Treasury to seek clarification,” said a Welsh Government spokesman.
The spokesman added: “The [Welsh] minister for health and social services is committed to the training and development of nurses, midwives and other allied health professionals, as demonstrated by our continued investment in this area.
“The detailed review of the position is being undertaken and once the details become clearer, the minister will consider the implications of the chancellor’s statement on Wales,” he said.
“To ask these students to now pay up to £9,000 a year means that, in effect, they will be contributing their labour for free”
The Royal College of Nursing Wales said there was no “solid” evidence that removing bursaries would boost the number of nurses, which the government has claimed will happen.
RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly claimed many people would now not be able to afford to study for a nursing degree – which, in the future, she predicted would see students need to take out a loan of up to £9,000 per year for tuition fees, plus living costs on top of that.
“As we are currently unaware of the bearing this decision will have in Wales, due to the UK government’s choice to not consult with either the Welsh government or the RCN, we await news of its implications and look to work closely with both the government and our student membership in helping reduce the potential impact this will have on these individuals,” she said.
student nurse observing
The UK government said students in England would move to the loans system from September 2017, with details subject to consultation. Nursing Times understands it will only apply to those starting a degree at that time, not those already in training.
It claimed the reform would allow universities in England to increase student nurse, midwife and AHP course places by up to 10,000, by 2020. This is because the number of university places are currently restricted by how much money the government provides to fund education every year.