We’ve heard concerns about the proposed removal of the bursary expressed by student nurses, university deans and nursing unions.
Cynics could be forgiven for thinking “they would say that, wouldn’t they?” but now we’ve heard frontline nurses are also concerned that the removal of the bursary will affect their ability to provide safe, compassionate, high-quality care.
Speaking at the Unison health conference in Brighton last week, charge nurse Stuart Tuckwood said with resources cut so lean, his team relied on student nurses to prop up their service to ensure it delivered kind, compassionate care (read the story here). Whatever happened to supernumerary status?
Right across the NHS, staffing is painfully inadequate in many care settings. Unable to recruit enough nurses to reach establishment numbers and ordered to not fill rotas with agency staff, nurse managers have been forced to rely on students to talk to patients, provide personal care and make them comfortable.
Nurses at the Unison conference fear the removal of the bursary will deter people from entering the profession, and thereby cut off the one supply of labour that’s proved useful to both them and their patients – and affordable to their employers.
Of course, no health service should rely on students to provide care. Student nurses should be supernumerary. But things are now so bad nurses have no choice but to depend on them to provide the kindness they wish their permanent staff had the time to offer. If nurses are standing up at a conference and saying that they can’t survive without the support of students, we are in trouble.
Having presented the Student Nursing Times Awards last week, I know students are superb providers of compassionate care. Chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings said at the event that students were not the future of the profession – they are already the profession. But they should not be replacing registered nurses in the way that those comments at last week’s Unison conference indicate they clearly are.
Alarm bells are ringing loudly. But no one in the government is listening. They have a plan – which is to cut, cut, cut. And when we think they can cut no more, they will come back with a new and sharper knife.