The removal of bursaries for student nurses in England could have a negative impact on the overall number of applicants applying for training as well as for groups such as mature students and people with children, an influential group of MPs has warned.
In its assessment of NHS staff supply in England, the Commons’ public accounts committee said there was “no guarantee” that the demand for nurse courses – which is currently estimated to be three applicants per training place – would continue following changes to education funding.
“We expect [the DH and HEE] to monitor the effects [of the bursary removal] in real-time and report back to us in autumn 2018”
Public accounts committee
It also noted that national workforce planning body Health Education England had not assessed whether the reforms – which will see the end of free training and the move to a loans system - would deter prospective students from applying.
The MPs said the Department of Health and HEE should assess the likely effect of the new funding system on rates of applications for nursing, midwifery and allied health training courses, which will all be affected by the changes from autumn 2017.
This should include the impact across different demographic groups, types of courses and the proportion of overseas students to those from England, added the committee in its report, called Managing the supply of NHS clinical staff in England.
“The risks are so serious that the proposals should be immediately stopped until a more suitable model of funding can be found”
“We also expect them to monitor the effects in real-time and report back to us in autumn 2018 after the first year of the new funding system,” they said.
In response to the report, which found a series of problems with clinical workforce planning by both the NHS and the government, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said it highlighted the lasting impact of poor planning on nurses.
She said the government risked making the shortage of nurses and workforce planning even worse with its plans to remove bursaries and called for the proposals to be dropped immediately.
“The government has not thought hard enough about the risks of their student funding proposals or of reducing the funding for continuing education.
”The proposals don’t address the risk that they will reduce access to nursing and make workforce planning even more difficult”
“The proposals don’t reflect the reality of modern nurse training or address the risk that they will reduce access to nursing and make workforce planning even more difficult,” said Ms Davies.
“The risks are so serious that the proposals should be immediately stopped until a more suitable model of funding can be found as the evidence to justify these changes just isn’t there,” she added.
A Department of Health spokeswoman reiterated that the removal of bursaries was expected to allow up to 10,000 more nursing, midwife and allied health professionals to train by 2020.
This is because universities will no longer be limited to a certain number of course places due to restrictions in funding from the government.