Health minister Anne Milton has revealed that the Department of Health is in talks with the Treasury about how to fund university tuition fees for nurses, and plans to make an announcement on the subject in the autumn.
Taking questions after her speech to the Royal College of Nursing annual congress this week, Ms Milton was asked whether the NHS would pay fees for students, and whether universities would be reimbursed for the full sum they plan to charge.
The minister told nurses she “would love” and is trying “desperately” to reach the stage where an announcement could be made on higher education funding for nurses.
“I’m afraid I can’t yet,” she said. “But we have been looking at it and also discussing it with the Treasury… I wish I could tell you what we’re doing and I can see your frustration, but I can’t tell you.”
She added: “We will come forward I think in September sometime in the autumn with plans for funding.”
Ms Milton acknowledged students’ concerns over how they would pay their tuition fees, saying that £9,000 a year “is a very big chunk of money to find up front”, but added that it remains to be seen whether all universities proposing maximum fees will get approval.
She also told delegates that the average age of entry into nursing is now 27, “which is quite old”. The minister emphasised the need to have “very flexible routes into nursing” as nurses now enter profession from a variety of employment and academic backgrounds.