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Student nurse funding to get radical reform

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Changes in pre-registration nurse training could see the funding of nurse education facing a radical overhaul.

The government is set to scrap the current model of funding for nursing students.

Under the present system, diploma students receive non means tested bursaries, while nursing degree students are means tested. This system is said to limit poorer students’ access to degree courses.

The means testing debate is set to intensify as the profession heads for degree-only entry. All pre-registration courses will be degree-only from September 2011.

A consultation, which would have set out a number of options for a new funding model, was to be launched later this month.

But Nursing Times understands that the timetable for the consultation could be put back because the government has yet to reach agreement with nursing unions on the funding proposals.

At present, the government is understood to be considering consulting on nine options for future student nurse funding.

Its plans include proposals to introduce a single loan for all students. This would not have to be repaid by those who committed to working in the NHS for two or three years after they had finished training.

These ‘forgivable loans’ are used in the US for teachers and social workers. They have been used in England for the same groups, although not on a national basis.

Loans could be calculated using the Rowntree model, a funding formula used by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to calculate living costs. This could cost the government an estimated £780m extra a year.

A further proposal could see student nurses having to fund themselves through a part bursary, part loan model. Some of the funding would have to paid back to the government with interest, as with the student loan system.

However, a literature review commissioned by the Department of Health from London South Bank University and seen by Nursing Times has warned that ‘debt aversion’ has been stopping people from ‘non-traditional backgrounds’ training to become nurses.

The review said: ‘Any system that does not cover the full cost of fees and reasonable living will result in students undertaking term-time working, building up commercial debt… this is likely to disadvantage non-traditional students more than average.’

Professor David Sines, lead author of the review and former executive dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the university, said it was important the government ensured that, once nursing moved to an all-graduate profession, the ‘widest possible pool of applicants’ would still be able to train to become nurses.

‘We also need to provide the highest incentive to ensure financial support for students,’ he said. ‘The results of this review show that students do require more money and they do not want to be means tested.’A DH spokesperson said that a steering group would ‘take forward the review’.

‘The group are developing and analysing options for the future of NHS student support and assessing how well they meet the aims of the review,’ he said.

‘The options include bursaries and loans – means tested and non means tested – and employed status, and combinations of these.

‘Once the initial assessment is complete, we will consult widely on the options. At present we plan to launch this consultation at the end of July. This timetable has been agreed with the stakeholders, including the RCN and Unison,’ he added.

Gail Adams, head of nursing at Unison, said: ‘We are trying our best to ensure that the consultation is fit for purpose and that it is ready to be published by the end of July.’

As Nursing Times reported in January, prime minister Gordon Brown promised he would investigate the fairness of means-tested bursaries for degree-level nursing courses.

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Christina Nolan

    it appears to me that the government are making it increasingly harder for people to become nurses. Yet they say they are crying out for people to become nurses.

    Why can't the British Government, have thought about this funding before now, it would certainly have made everyones life easier and have just given the degree students the full non means tested bursary in the first place.

    Or we could just go back to the good old days when nurses had more practical hands on experience and got paid a wage, for the sifts that they worked, but there again I suppose this does not bode well with the "nursing should be more academic" camp. What good is a nurse who can write an essay on Progression of Personal and Professional Development using critical ananlysis in a model of reflection, but can't deal with someone who is 90 years of age has dementia and is defecating themselves every 2 minutes.

    I think that the balance between academia and placement works quite well at the moment, and if it aint broke don't try and fix it.

    Also for those diploma students at present, will we be expected to upgrade our qulification at sometime in the future to a degree ( like the some of the old SEN's had to upgrade their's to a diploma in recent times) and are we going to be any less of a nurse than someone with a degree I think not.

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  • Daniel Glover

    I am an ex student nurse who had to leave the course due to financial hardship. I am looking to return in 2010 after saving money to help support me through the training.

    My mum is an ex nurse who trained back in the day when students were paid a wage whilst training and counted into the numbers on the ward.

    Now the government are doing a complete 360 degrees by considering this option again. Someone should have told them years ago to not touch what is broken.

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