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Student nurse bursary overhaul to start in autumn


Proposals to overhaul the funding system for pre-registration student nurse training will be announced in September by the Department of Health, Nursing Times has learnt.

Nursing Times revealed in June that the government was planning a consultation on a radical overhaul of student nurse education funding.

Health minister Ann Keen has confirmed that the consultation, which was due to launch at the end of the month, has now been delayed to make sure the consultation document is ‘as clear as possible’.

Ms Keen told Nursing Times that the student support arrangements were ‘complex’ and that the government wanted to ‘make sure that the information in the published document is as clear as possible so that respondents can take an informed view of the most appropriate system’.

‘For this reason, the consultation will open later than planned but respondents will still have at least 12 weeks to respond,’ she said. ‘At present, we expect the consultation to open early in September so that the document is available to those returning from their summer breaks.’

Under the current system, nursing diploma students receive non-means tested bursaries, while nursing degree students are means tested. The government’s consultation will propose five options for the future model of funding for students, which are likely to be introduced next year – prior to the introduction of all-graduate entry 2011 (see below). 

Nursing Times understands that the most likely outcome would mean nursing students were supported by between £8,000 and £8,500 per year.

Contrary to earlier suggestions, the DH has now confirmed that a system of ‘forgivable loans’, where those who commit to working in the NHS for a number of years have their loan waived, will not be included in the consultation.

Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing, said the union had been working with the DH to ensure a system of funding that would be both equitable and transparent.

‘We want to consult everyone including people who are interested in coming into nursing and midwifery as a profession,’ she said.

The RCN has previously called for the government to introduce a non-means tested bursary of £12,000.

In November last year, the college warned that the inadequacy of the current bursary system, combined with the start of the economic downturn, was a major factor in students dropping out of nursing courses.

The results of an RCN survey published at the time found 71% of nursing students needed a second job to afford to study and 44% were considering leaving their course – of which 62% gave financial reasons as the main factor.  

RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: ‘The government needs to introduce a liveable non-means tested bursary of £12,000 so that fees and spiralling living costs don’t stop nurses from staying the course, completing their studies and delivering high quality care for years to come.’


Student nurse funding options:
Retaining the current arrangements for funding until the move to all-degree entry in 2011 when all bursaries would, as a result, be means tested
Introducing means tested bursaries and non-means tested loans
Allowing access to non-means tested bursaries
Implementing similar arrangements to those used by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills which would see student nurses covered by the same support arrangements as all other students in higher education
Employing nursing students who receive a salary to train on the job




Readers' comments (25)

  • Employing nurses while training would reflect their contribution to wards when on placement and enable them to devote their time effectively to their training while receiveing a liveable wage. At our institution approximately 50% do not complete their training pressure of academic work combined with placement and paid employment and money issues are the main reasons for leaving.

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  • As an American nurse, living in the UK I can't believe students drop out at such a high the US RN programmes cost around $20,000 a year (paid by the RN), no salary/bursary paid. Most students work at least two jobs. Yet, courses are very subscribed and most have a low drop out rate, add to this when qualified, little or no sick pay, 2 weeks holiday and usually no maternity leave thats paid. True, the rates of pay are a little better, but the benefits are non existant, also health insurance costs are only subsidised by the employer and are topped up by the nurse, student nurses won't get any coverage provided. The UK's not too bad!!!

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  • Too little, too late.

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  • I am doing the degree nursing course and it is very difficult to keep up with financial problems which means I am working weekends as part time. However when in placements it is very difficult to work as placement shifts may fall during the weekends and if you have a placement that is during the week days it means that I am doing 7 days a week for atleast a month or more. This is the same for a lot of the degree students as they cannot cope with paying rent and travels and so on just on their mean tested bursaries.

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  • I am a Adv Diploma student and swapping to do me degree for the final year.
    I really wonder how they expect people to be able to concentrate fully on their learning and devlopment with constant financial worries!
    The university i am at state a maximum amount of hours we can work around our course (which is not alot), and if we work over this we are not insured whilst at uni or on placement. Due to these restrictions many are being forced to either poverty or leaving their course.

    Although we are student nurses the majority of us are paid less then half of what a nursing assistants salary is. If the income where higher it is likely that students could concetrate more on learning and therefore become better educated nurses.

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  • Since when has the bursary had anything to do with the NA wage?

    I agree that the bursaries are way too low, but so is the NA wage for a full time job. I'm a band 2 and someone on a band 3 gets £3000 more a year because they do one more job in their role. It's ridiculous!

    However you choose to do the dip/degree and are guaranteed 19/20K at least after graduating. So whilst I agree that the wages are still nowhere near good enough, there is a big difference in a student/graduated nurses wage in 3yrs to an NA. A band 2 NA will still be on 13K a year, whilst you'll jump up £7000!
    It is really not easy on an NA wage (which is way below inflation), and I wish student nurses would stop attacking us.

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  • I am currently a student nurse on the diploma programme, I find the bursery a constant struggle as it is simply not enough. I constantly apply for jobs but am turned down on basis of non-availability through placements. I am considering dropping out purely because of the financial suituation. I simply cannot cope running a household and living on such a low bursery. I love care work and nursing as I have been in the field for 6 years and would hate to have to leave the programme due to this.

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  • I am currently a band 2 HCA looking at becoming a student nurse the only thing that has put me off so far is the financial side of things. I think it would be right to reiceive a wage for placements and a means tested system in place to top up

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  • I am starting the Diploma course soon. I am grateful to have a non means tested bursary for the first two years but am already worried how I am going to cope when I get to year three and hopefully have coped well enough to move to the degree course. Financially it will be very hard.

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  • Why would anyone want to move onto the degree course from the diploma and loose your bursary when you can do an extra couple of months at uni to top it up once your qualified and working?

    I do think it is far to low and I hope the revamp of the bursary system will come in sooner rather than later. It's been proven countless times that nursing students are put under the most stress more so than medical students and that it is related heavily to finance. Something needs to be done, £8500 would be enough to keep my head above water.

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