Students nurses are to march through London this weekend in a further attempt to convince the government to drop its plans for removing bursaries.
It follows demonstrations in recent months and a lobby of MPs last week over the proposals, which mean healthcare students in England will no longer receive free university education from 2017 and will instead have to take out a loan.
“Protests do work and the government has made u-turns before”
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Unison assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie will also be among those in attendance at the event on Saturday.
Previous protests against the plans attracted thousands of people and organisers behind this weekend’s demonstration hope it will again show the government “we won’t stand for this”.
Student nurse Danielle Tiplady, who is studying at King’s College London and is one of the lead organisers of the march, said: “Protests do work and the government has made u-turns before.”
She urged the government to listen to concerns that people would be deterred from training due to debts, noting that a recent report by consultants London Economics had supported this prediction.
The study, published last week and commissioned by Unison and the National Union of Students, estimated at least a 6% drop in student numbers next year leading to 2,100 fewer nurses being trained.
Ms Tiplady said: “They did an independent analysis on the bursary system, which shows the governments calculations are wrong.”
However, the Department of Health disputed the report’s conclusions, saying it did not ”recognise the figures quoted”.
student nurses at st thomas hospital demonstrating against bursary removal
Plans to drop bursaries were announced during chancellor George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review in November, with the government claiming it would allow universities to provide 10,000 extra training places by 2020.
But unions criticised the move, warning the changes would deter people from applying for nurse training due to the prospect of accruing debts of at least around £50,000, leading to more staff shortages in the NHS.
The march will take place from 1pm on Saturday, with campaigners gathering at St Thomas’ Hospital and ending at Whitehall.
It is supported by unions including Unison, Unite, the Royal College of Nursing and the NUS.