Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Ending bursaries ‘will lead to shortages’, survey suggests

  • 1 Comment

Nine out of 10 student nurses would not have applied to study nursing without access to a bursary, according to a snap poll by a union.

This week’s government spending review said bursaries for student nurses and midwives would be replaced in future by a system of loans, which are expected to be introduced from September 2017.

“George Osborne’s plan is likely to have serious consequences for the number of nurses in this country”

Dave Prentis

The union Unison carried out an online survey of 2,000 student nurses in the wake of the announcement by the chancellor on Wednesday, with 91% saying they would not have chosen to study nursing without a bursary.

George Osborne claimed that the move, which could potentially save the government around £800m a year, would give universities more flexibility to boost numbers on nursing courses and therefore increase the number of staff going to work in the NHS.

But unions, including Unison and the royal colleges of nursing and midwifery, have argued that the opposite is true and that the reforms will dissuade people from choosing nursing as a degree, because of the prospect of having to repay a loan on a relatively low wage.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This NHS has already a shortage of nurses so making it more expensive and difficult to train new ones makes no sense whatsoever. The government is being less than honest about these changes.

“Half all student nurses already have children or other caring responsibilities, and hardly any will have spare cash to pay for what looks set up to be a course with exorbitant costs to do a job that pays very little,” he said.

Mr Prentis added: “It is difficult to imagine who and why anyone would want to train as a nurse under those circumstances. George Osborne’s plan is likely to have serious consequences for the number of nurses in this country.”

Unison also claimed there were “serious questions” over who would pay for clinical placements in future.

However, the chief executive of Health Education England, Ian Cumming, has said that his organisation will continue to fund placements, despite losing the budget for bursaries.

Though Mr Cumming also told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal that a freeze on its budget in future years might reduce the money it had available for placements.

Meanwhile, the Council of Deans of Health, which supports the overall changes, has said students will be better off while they are studying, because the loans will be worth more than the current bursary.

It has also suggested there should be facilities to provide additional financial support to mature students and that trusts should help newly-qualifieds with loan repayments as an incentive in some understaffed areas.

Elsewhere, some nurses are mobilising direct opposition in a bid to overturn the government decision to end free education for nursing and midwifery students with protests and petitions.

A march was planned to take place next Wednesday outside the Department of Health in Whitehall and a petition set up this week has attracted in excess of 100,000 signatures, meaning it will be considered for debate by MPs.

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • " ...incentive in some understaffed areas."

    There are not too many areas that aren't understaffed or bearly adequately staffed (assuming their patients are stable and acuity low). Even on 1:4 nurse:patients ratios, it can still be very tricky if you're in the middle of a procedure with a patient, when another patient asks urgently for toilet and someone else about to get out of bed / wheelchair thinking they can walk, all happening when your colleagues are also busy.

    For career changers, it might be enough to deter them from joining nursing and consider taking their previous experience + skills into another area of healthcare (or customer service!).

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.