A student has defended the introduction of compulsory undergraduate education for nurses, after a member of the UK Independence Party claimed nurses should not be trained at university.
Speaking as part of a debate on the BBC’s Question Time last night, Louise Bours, UKIP’s health spokeswoman and MEP for the North West of England, said that instead of going to university nurses should learn their profession on hospital wards.
She claimed many people would prefer the option of becoming a state enrolled nurse (SEN) – offered through a qualification introduced in the 1940s but phased out during the 1990s after the restructuring of nurse education under Project 2000.
“I don’t believe nurses should be at university. I believe nurses should be trained on the ward,” she said.
“What we have in theory is very good to put into practice on the wards because without that we’re going in blind”
However, Ms Bours was corrected by student nurse in the audience, Amy Tunicliffe, who pointed out that nurses do in fact learn in clinical settings by completing placements as part of their university programme.
“I am trained on a ward, we all are,” said Ms Tunicliffe, to a round of applause from the Question Time audience in Sheffield.
“What we have in theory is very good to put into practice on the wards because without that we’re going in blind. You need that theory to put it into practice,” she added.
However, Ms Bours refused to accept the student’s point, appearing to talk over her on several occasions.
She claimed that student nurses had written to her about the issue. “The number of letters I have from student nurses who say…what they wanted was what we had before – the SEN – they wanted to work towards that qualification on the wards and that has been taken away from them,” she said.
“There are going to be some like yourself who have the qualifications to get into university…But not all people are like that”
Addressing Ms Tunicliffe, she said: “There are going to be some people like yourself who have the qualifications to get into university, and will be highly skilled nurse. But not all people are like that.”
Speaking at a later point on the BBC show, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna showed support for degree-level nurse training.
“If you want to go to university as a nurse, I want you to go to university as a nurse,” he told Ms Tunicliffe.
The comments on student nursing were initially sparked by a debate on the government’s budget announcement from earlier this week, which stated maintenance grants for less wealthy students – worth around £3,300 – would be removed and replaced with loans.
Ms Tunicliffe had asked the panel: “Is the scrapping of the maintenance grant for students the death knell for social mobility in the UK for this generation?”
In answering the question, Ms Bours had then changed the topic to whether nurses should be trained at university.
The stand-off between Ms Tunicliffe and Ms Bours led to strong words from nurses on the social media site twitter.