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Bursary removal walkout will 'show student nurses hold NHS together'


A placement walkout tomorrow by student nurses over the planned removal of bursaries will help show the true contribution they make to patient care and how they “fill in the gaps” and “hold the NHS together”, according to its organisers.

They told Nursing Times it would also serve as a warning to the government about the strain NHS organisations would feel under the funding reforms, which they claimed would deter student nurse applicants because of the prospect of debt.

“Students hold the NHS together, we have filled in the gaps through the nurse staffing crisis. Without us it will be felt”

Danielle Tiplady

The government was still “not listening to us” about concerns over proposals to end free university education for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in England from 2017, according to the student nurses who have organised the walkout.

One claimed tomorrow’s event will show how students are effectively used as unpaid healthcare assistants or registered nurses during clinical placements at NHS trusts – despite officially being supernumerary.

The demonstration will highlight how their free tuition and bursary for their living costs, which is currently up to around £5,000 per year, goes some way to remunerate them for their work, they added.

Danielle Tiplady, lead organiser of the demonstrations, told Nursing Times the one-hour walkout from 10am to 11am, which follows marches and protests across the country, would make the government realise students are prepared to fight to keep their bursaries.

“It’s only for an hour but students hold the NHS together, we have filled in the gaps through the nurse staffing crisis. Without us it will be felt,” she said.

Ms Tiplady, who is a student nurse at King’s College London, said: “We work really hard, are given all the extra jobs that nurses don’t have the time to do.

“It’s really insulting to take the bursary away from us for what we do and how dedicated we are to the profession, the patients and the NHS,” she said.

“The government need to realise they are risking the future workforce and this walkout is symbolic of that,” she added.

“There are quite a lot of times…that students are used in place of having health care assistants and registered nursing staff there”

Anthony Johnson

Student nurse Anthony Johnson, who also helped to organise the walkout, pointed to recent figures from the Royal College of Nursing that showed that in London NHS nurse vacancies have been rising in recent years, to 17% in 2015.

He said the staffing crisis would only get worse if the reforms were brought in, adding that the quality of placements would also be reduced.

“Throughout the entire NHS there are staffing issues. I think personally there are quite a lot of times – and all nurses know this and all students know this – that students are used in place of having health care assistants and registered nursing staff there,” he said.

He added: “So, even though we are supposed to be supernumerary, as this staffing crisis goes on and becomes worse, there is damage done to the registered workforce which also affects our learning and placements too.

“This [walkout] is a symbolic statement that says if the ward was able to run effectively without us, there wouldn’t need to be statements made by some areas of the profession that students should have to consult with their placements because of the implications for the clinical setting,” said Mr Johnson.

The walkout has received support from unions Unison and Unite, although the latter has advised those taking part to arrange their lunch hour over the walkout time.

”If the ward was able to run effectively without us, there wouldn’t need to be statements made by some areas of the profession that students should have to consult with their placements [before walking out]”

Daniel Johnson

But unions the Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Nursing have warned against possible consequences of walking out, reminding students this was not industrial action.

A spokesman for the RCM told Nursing Times it would “encourage student midwives on clinical placements to discuss any plans with their lecturer and mentor, and to have regard to both the implications for qualification and the clinical setting”.

The RCN last week advised its student members to “carefully consider the implications” of taking part, noting it could jeopardise receipt of their current bursary and reminding them they would lose “important clinical placement hours that are needed to complete their nursing course”.

But in response to these warnings, Ms Tiplady told Nursing Times that the short length of time the walkout was planned for meant students should be able to make up this extra hour, if required, at a later point in their placement.

She also said she believed that if students had spoken with their mentors in advance and gained their support then this should not jeopardise their bursary arrangements.

Tomorrow’s walkout across the country, arranged by the campaign group Save NHS bursaries, has been planned to coincide with the junior doctors’ strike over contracts and working conditions.

It is part of a week of activities about the bursary removal plans, which also include posting messages on Twitter on Sunday using the #‎LoveNHS hashtag.


Readers' comments (26)

  • If all the RCN can come up with is that it would affect the amount of placement hours..... Shame on them, government lapdogs!

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  • If they are anything like the so called student nurses who visit where i work the NHS might be better off without them. If they are the brave new face of nursing then God help us all thats all i can say.

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  • To be honest I don't think this will make any impact. The student nurses we have dont really show that they are interested. They follow the trained staff like lost puppies. When I was a student I jumped at watching/doing anything. I jumped when the call bell went off, I sat with patients. The new students don't answer a call bell unless we ask them to.

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  • I think its very bad new for the NHS if the bursary is taken away. It will more than discourage highly motivated mature students, for example, as they won't be able to afford nurse education.

    Perhaps burnt-out qualified nurses are not inspiring new recruits, and its not surprising, with all the strain of the 'stretched system'.

    The NHS needs a highly motivated workforce made up from all walks of life. It is a privilege to be a nurse, and very challenging. The students are very brave to protest for student nurses of the future. I am sorry to say historically nurses can be unkind to their own. I hope the students will be supported for their protest. They are very vulnerable!

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  • These individuals need to be supported and perhaps joined by their qualified nursing colleagues

    There is something inspiring about student nurses that should be heeded by us registered staff in that these embryonic nurses are learning now to fight and not to put up with this government and those of a similar ilk prior to them

    In this venture the student is teaching the teacher the direction that they need to face

    If we do not unite to stand we will fall apart alone

    Bravo student nurses

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  • we promote political awareness amongst our students yet chastise them when they respond in an organised way to show their symbolic disapproval. Lets support them rather than nullifying them to add strength to their response. If they keep mentors and lecturers informed of their intentions then they should not need to worry about bursaries being affected after all that is what they are protesting about, not for them but for future student nurses

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  • I do support the student nurse walkout. It is a disgrace that student nurse would have to pay tuition for course. We have given NHS all we got my covering the ward on shortfall.

    The student nurses are used as a substitute they do not get the training as required as the ward is always have a shortage.

    I would say students stand on your feet and we nurses need to give them support.

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  • Reply to ANONYMOUS 5.44PM...maybe if people like you spent some time with the students in the correct manner and spent less time slagging them off it would be better.A student is only as good as their mentor so hopefully you are not one.

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  • Whilst I agree that bursaries should stay, I have found in recent years that students tend to think they are put upon if asked to participate in the daily routines of the unit or ward. How do they expect to learn of not by 'hands-on' activities? As a mentor I will admit that I have asked students to complete tasks- within their capability and as part of the learning process- that I haven't had time to do. However, it must be remembered that mentoring students can be quite time consuming. It works both ways.

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  • The student nurses I have worked with over the last15 years have dropped in quality massively - I work in mental health. The degree nurses appear to have little understanding of medications, anatomy, or treatments and yet they have a bachelor of science to their name. I still have to discover what they do get taught at their polytechnic colleges - sorry - Universities.
    Nursing is not a science, but more a craft or perhaps an art. The student walkout certainly won't bring any disruption to my workplace as they do little but read policies and care plans in the ward office, clearly discomforted by the idea of direct patient contact.
    I pity the patients of the future that will only have these "educated" nurses for help. I know that if I one day need psychiatric care, I shall not seek it from these professionals.
    I'm not against higher education - I have a Master of Arts in Philosophy, it's just that a degree does not make for a better nurse: quite the contrary it appears.

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