Student nurses in Wales who receive a bursary for their training but do not go on to work in the country will in the future be required to pay back at least £25,500 in fees, it has emerged.
At the end of last year the Welsh government announced it would retain bursaries for nursing courses - unlike in England, where they have been scrapped – on the condition that those in receipt of the funding must commit to working in Wales for at least two years.
Details of the 2017/18 bursary scheme have now been published and show nurses who fail to honour that agreement will be expected to pay back at least £25,500 for a three-year course.
The sum covers university tuition fees and the £1,000 non means-tested bursary included in the full bursary scheme - which is available to UK students and those coming from the European Union if they have been resident in the UK for three years.
In addition, nurses who don’t go on to work in Wales will be expected to pay back any additional grant funding they received through the means-tested element of the bursary scheme.
Nurses who either leave Wales straight after finishing their studies, or only work within the country for less than six months, will be required to pay back £25,500 for the three-year university course.
The re-payments are worked out on a sliding scale so those who complete between six months’ and a year’s service will be required to pay back £19,125.
For those who leave after 18 months but before the full two years is up, the repayment will be £8,500.
After two years, nurses are free to work elsewhere without paying back the funding they received.
Students who drop out during their course will also be expected to pay back fees and grants – at least £8,500 if they leave during the first year, £17,000 during the second and the full £25,500 if they quit during the third year.
”The RCN in Wales is pleased to see this commitment by the Welsh government to maximise the financial support available to student nurses”
EU students who apply to train in Wales under the bursary scheme and have not been resident for three years previously will only be eligible for funding for tuition fees.
If they do not stay working in Wales after qualifying they will also face repayments – although they will be asked to pay back up to £2,250 less than UK nationals, and EU nationals who have been here for some time, the guidance shows.
The NHS Wales guidance also sets out what kind of jobs that qualify as “employment in Wales”.
Nurses must generally work at least 22.5 hours a week and be based in Wales. Roles that qualify include working for hospital, community and primary care run by any NHS health board or trust, working for a primary care contractor, local authority, prison or charitable healthcare service such as a hospice.
Nurses can also work for an NHS Wales bank system. Or they can embark on another NHS Wales-funded training course such as health visiting or midwifery – as long as they complete two years’ employment after finishing the second course.
The Royal College of Nursing in Wales said it was expected that newly-qualified nurses would be able to “readily” find employment in the country after their studies.
It noted that the bursary scheme would help the country to meet new staffing requirements under laws that will be applied to all NHS adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards from April 2018.
”The RCN in Wales is pleased to see this commitment by the Welsh government to maximise the financial support available to student nurses, with the aim of securing the number of registered nurses needed to meet the health needs of the people of Wales into the future, as well as the requirements of the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016,” said RCN associate director of professional practice, Alison Davies.