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'Students must speak with one voice on cuts'

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Stuart Young on cuts in education and his first-hand experience of this week’s protest march in London.

Yesterday I joined other members of the Royal College of Nursing Students to add our voices to the 45,000 plus students who marched together through central London.

As we made our way through London in the morning, there was no sign of the violent outburst conducted by a very small minority of people that would later disrupt the event. It is sad that these individuals have distracted from the key theme of the day – “No Ifs, No Buts, No Education Cuts”.

As a nursing student, I have started to experience the reality of the current economic situation. There are fewer and fewer bank shifts available and the pinch is only just beginning to be felt. At university, I sit on the faculty board and chair my institution’s student council; all of us are becoming increasingly aware of the cuts students are facing.

It will not be long until student nurses and faculties of health and social care start to see cuts and the RCN Frontline First campaign has already started receiving reports of cutbacks being discussed within nursing schools.

Cutbacks in the education sector are going to affect the nurses of the future. If the number of lecturers falls, the quality of teaching will fall; if the quality of our learning falls, then ultimately the quality of care will do the same.

Without the right training in place, student nurses and midwives will have to spend more time looking at their professional development post-registration. This is something that we do already and finding the time to fit it in can be difficult. With an ageing population and a high number of nurses set to retire in the next 10 years, there is not going to be time to put right any gaps in knowledge that have arisen due to a reduction in academic quality.

Like many students, I awaited the Browne review with bated breath. When reading it through, there are many comments on the latest higher education funding system and student finance. While very few of the current proposals affect nursing and midwifery students directly, there is no reassurance that this will have no effect on healthcare tuition fees and the future funding of NHS bursaries.

It is worth noting that Lord Browne did identify that healthcare students have a strong case for additional and targeted investment in the future; he identified our courses as delivering significant social return. I guess we will have to see what the future brings.

As a result, all students are in a time of deep uncertainty and the best way for any group of people to move an agenda forward is to speak with one voice. Thus far, it has been an electric experience being part of this massive student voice.

The Royal College of Nursing’s Frontline First website needs information about any (and all!) cuts affecting nursing and midwifery students in order to help all members of our profession speak with one voice. So, let them know about any cuts you are seeing or personally experiencing.

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