Student nurses are to be consulted by unions over fresh government proposals to change the NHS bursary.
Unions, including Unison and the Royal College of Nursing, announced today they will be launching a joint consultation on fresh options from the government on proposed changes to the bursary.
The Department of Health last week told unions of five new options for bursary reform, adding a further twist to the long-running debate over their future. A consultation on the issue was held by the previous government in 2009, which set out different proposals, but no change has ever been introduced (see box).
Nursing Times understands that three of the new options, including one of maintaining the current system, are viewed as “untenable” by union representatives – leaving only two as worthy for taking forward for debate.
The unions said they were disappointed by the government’s return to the drawing board. They also claim the DH has no intention of holding its own formal consultation on the new options, and therefore have taken matters into their own hands. The results will be submitted to ministers.
Speaking on behalf of the affected health unions, Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “Following four years of negotiation, discussion and consultation, we are deeply frustrated at this unexpected turn of events.
“Instead of an announcement on the bursary we are presented with revised options. We have waited since 2009 for an announcement which we expected would improve the financial situation of healthcare students.”
“Despite the need for a decision, it is important that our members are consulted on these revised options as they differ from the ones originally put to students.
“In addition, in the past two years the financial landscape has changed significantly. Students are now graduating with ever increasing amounts of debt. This will only become worse given the change to student loans which come into effect next year.
“There has already been extensive discussion and consultation on this matter. We want to be assured that following our consultation, there will be an urgent announcement about the final deal. The Treasury must make sure a decision is taken speedily.”
The student consultation – expected to begin next month – will be hosted on the National Union of Students website.
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|Box : 2009 options for changes to the bursary|
|Retain the current scheme|
|Provide a means-tested bursary and a non-means-tested loan for all students|
|Provide a non-means-tested bursary for all students|
|Move NHS-funded students to the same support arrangements as all other students in higher education|
|Employ all students whilst they are studying|