There is to be a “significant review” of the bursary and other funding available to student nurses in Scotland, Nursing Times can reveal.
The Scottish Government said it would be reviewing the “whole funding package available to nursing and midwifery students” in Scotland.
A spokesman for the government told Nursing Times it would be engaging with “key stakeholders”, including students, as part of the review, which is due to be officially announced on Wednesday.
The review closely follows the launch of a petition by a student nurse calling for the Scottish Government to provide trainee nurses with more money for living costs at university.
The campaign claims the current yearly bursary of £6,578 – which is paid to pre-registration trainee nurses and midwives in Scotland – is not enough to cover the increasing cost of living and means many students struggle to pay bills and other expenses.
“Trying to fit in my studying along with my weekend work is impacting on my university work”
It also claims the non means-tested bursary does not reflect the number of weeks of placement that students must complete – a minimum of around 60 over a three-year course, as set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Campaigners say this reduces the ability of students to secure part time jobs to supplement the bursary.
Student nurse Stephanie Robertson, who set up the petition and is leading the campaign, said she and many of her fellow students were having problems fitting in their part time jobs around studying and placements.
“I need to work at least one or two days a week in a job where I’ve had to fight for flexible hours. Trying to fit in my studying along with my weekend work is impacting on my university work – I’ve got exams coming up but I’ve not got time to prepare,” said Ms Robertson.
She added: “I heard one of the girls on my course joking that if she could she would go to a food bank because if she wasn’t working she wouldn’t be able to afford to eat.”
Ms Robertson said she wants to see the bursary raised to an amount that is equivalent to being paid the minimum living wage for the 4,600 hours of placement and university study nurses must complete over a three-year course.
“We don’t have a minute,” she said, “If we lived in a perfect world and we didn’t work then we’d have time to study more and it would make the NHS richer – not in terms of money but in terms of knowledge.”
The petition has attracted more than 2,600 signatures since it launched around three weeks ago.
Ms Robertson’s campaign has received the support of Unison, which is also calling for healthcare student bursaries across England, Scotland and Wales to be raised with respect to the living wage.
“We believe student nurses should be paid what we call a living bursary”
The union wants to see it increased to £11,475 per year for students outside of London and £13,300 for those within the capital.
Unison Scotland regional organiser Matt McLaughlin said the current bursary of £6,578 per year for students in Scotland was “grossly unfair”.
He said: “We have a longstanding campaigning policy that we believe student nurses should be paid what we call a living bursary.
“The situation for nurses is entirely different than say for example someone studying law or any other classic degree course, in that student nurses will do their studying at university but then also their placement – and have only around six weeks off a year,” he added.
In a statement provided to Nursing Times, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “The current bursary guarantees a minimum income of £6,578 per annum, excluding additional allowances.
“In contrast to England, this is entirely non-means tested and non-repayable. No students have to pay tuition fees,” he said. “However, we are committed to ensuring that support provided to nursing and midwifery students in Scotland fairly reflects the needs of all students.
“Therefore, we are undertaking a significant review of the whole funding package available to nursing and midwifery students. As part of this work we will engage with key stakeholders, including partnership and students,” said the spokesman.