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|