Both Labour’s leadership hopefuls have now pledged to restore the student nurse bursary if they lead the party to victory in the next general election.
Bringing back the bursary system, which is controversially being replaced with loans in 2017, was one of three key NHS policy pledges outlined by Jeremy Corbyn earlier this week.
“The next Labour government would go further than reversing Tory cuts”
The current party leader promised to restore publically-funded bursaries for student nurses and midwives in order to “secure” the skills needed by health service.
He also pledged to end the “privatisation” of the NHS and bring public services “back into public hands”.
On a similar note, Mr Corbyn said he would end private finance initiative (PFI) contracts that are “leaking money away” from frontline services and, instead, put the NHS on a “secure financial footing”.
“The Tories have run our treasured National Health Service into the ground and we need to get serious about stopping them,” he told an audience at University College Hospital in London on Wednesday.
“The next Labour government would go further than reversing Tory cuts – it would deliver a modern health and social care service that is fully publicly provided and fully publicly funded,” he said.
“PFI continues to take money away from patient care while job and bursary cuts have crippled the NHS and disproportionately hit women who make up 77% of NHS staff,” said Mr Corbyn.
“We would be able to reverse the Tories’ shameful decision to scrap bursaries for student nurses”
He added: “Health, health financing and health inequality is a matter of paramount national importance.
“The Labour government I lead will ensure that money goes to patients not contractors, and that our NHS is given the resources to provide a top quality service as part of a programme to rebuild and transform Britain so that no-one and no community is left behind,” he said.
Responding to Mr Corbyn, a Conservative spokesman said: “Whoever wins their leadership contest, Labour are too incompetent and divided to build the strong economy a strong NHS needs.
“We have put doctors and nurses in charge of deciding who can best provide the care patients need, and the use of outside providers has grown more slowly than under the last Labour government,” he said.
The spokesman reiterated pledges made in the chancellor’s 2015 autumn statement that the government would increase funding for the NHS by £10bn a year by 2020, of which £3.8bn will be delivered by the end of 2016-17, and that the total budget would rise to £120bn by 2020-21.
Mr Corbyn’s Labour leadership rival, Owen Smith, has previously pledged to fund a reversal of the government’s plans to scrap student bursaries through an additional 4% of NHS spending every year.
Labour rivals both pledge to reverse student bursary cuts
Mr Smith has said he would invest £60bn more in the NHS than the government planned to, via “fair taxes, reversing Tory tax cuts to Corporation Tax and with new taxes on the wealthiest in society”.
“With this new funding for the NHS we would be able to reverse the Tories’ shameful decision to scrap bursaries for student nurses and midwives, as well as open up nursing courses to 10,000 more students, thus ensuring wards are safely staffed,” says a statement on his campaign website.
Mr Smith, the MP for Pontypridd, has also pledged extra investment of over a billion pounds into mental health services as well as the potential for more funding for social care and research into cancer and dementia.
“The Tories have left our NHS unable to cope with the needs of the people in this country, with patients suffering, wards understaffed, and doctors and nurses overworked,” added the statement.