Student nurses and midwives in Wales will continue to receive a bursary in 2019, the country’s health secretary has confirmed.
Since the autumn, new funding arrangements have meant nursing, midwifery and allied health professional students in Wales are eligible for a bursary if they commit to working in the country for two years after qualifying.
“Health care students are the future of our NHS, which is why, unlike in England, we are continuing to support them”
Wales health secretary Vaughan Gething said today that these rules would continue for trainees beginning on courses in September 2019.
The Welsh government also revealed today that just 3% of the 2,180 students that applied for a bursary in 2017-18 declined to work in Wales for the required two years.
Those who cannot commit in advance to working in the country are still able to study by taking out a loan.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, students who receive a bursary but fail to work for at least two years in the country are required to pay back at least £25,500 in fees. Those who drop out of courses will also need to repay their bursary.
The arrangements are in contrast to England where bursaries for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals were scrapped in autumn 2017 and trainees must now take out loans instead to cover tuition fees – typically around £9,000 a year – and living costs.
According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the number of people from England applying to undergraduate nursing courses fell 23% last year, leading to 585 fewer people – or 2.6% – starting on courses in autumn 2017. This was followed by a further 14% drop in applicants this year.
In Wales, there was a 10% drop in applicants last year, but the number of people beginning on courses in the autumn rose by around 6%. This year, the latest figures show the same number of people as in 2017 have applied so far this year.
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“Health care students are the future of our NHS, which is why, unlike in England, we are continuing to support them during their studies in return for a commitment to work in Wales,” said Mr Gething.
“This sends a clear message about how much we value our healthcare workforce and sets out our commitment to the future of our NHS,” he said.
“We now need to see a much longer term solution to this…this is stop-start decision making”
“As well as a commitment to extending the bursary, we’re investing record levels in our NHS workforce,” he added.
He noted that the country had commissioned 68% more nurse training places since 2014 and had also launched a recruitment campaign to attract more UK health professionals to Wales.
Mr Gething described health care students as “the future of our NHS”, adding: “This is why, unlike in England, we are continuing to support them during their studies in return for a commitment to work in Wales.
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“This sends a clear message about how much we value our health care workforce and sets out our commitment to the future of our NHS.”
In response, Tina Donnelly, the director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said: “On behalf of all our members, many of whom are working in very difficult circumstances as the gap between the numbers of nurses being recruited to replace those who are leaving the profession widens – I am delighted that here in Wales something positive is being done to reverse that trend.
“Vaughan Gething’s pledge to continue the bursary for all nurses training in the 2019 cohort is in addition the Welsh government’s campaign to increase recruitment of health care professionals in Wales with its Train, Work, Live campaign and the additional money pledged to healthcare earlier this year,” she said.
“This is very welcome news and the RCN in Wales forward to working with the Welsh government in the future to further develop sustainable workforce planning that will ensure that patients get the quality of care that they deserve,” she added.
Alos commenting on today’s announcement, the Royal College of Midwives welcomed the confirmation of the bursary continuing, but said a longer term solution was required.
RCM director for Wales, Helen Rogers, said: “This is very welcome news. It brings some stability, certainty and much-needed financial support for those looking to train as midwives next year.
“We need to impress upon many people now that they can begin looking to midwifery as a career years into the future”
“This is vital if we are to attract the best entrants from across our society,” she said. “We now need to see a much longer term solution to this. We have had this and previous announcements, which is great, but this is stop-start decision making.
“We need to impress upon many people now that they can begin looking to midwifery as a career years into the future as many will have to make preparations such as undergoing further study in order to apply to train as a midwife,” she added.
Ms Rogers urged the government to commit to funding “well into the future” so students viewed midwifery as an affordable career option beyond 2018.