Nursing Times’ editor, Jenni Middleton, adds her voice to the call to abandon plans to replace student nurse bursaries with loans
Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister’s Office
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister,
As the editors of the UK’s leading nursing publications we are appealing directly to you about a crucial matter for the future of the nursing profession and the National Health Service.
Nurses across the country have told us about their deep concerns over Government plans to scrap student bursaries for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals from 1 August 2017 and we feel beholden to bring this to your attention.
They have told us that it will result in hardship for new nurses embarking on their careers and that – despite what is intended – the plans will lead to fewer nurses and midwives available to care for patients. This is why we have taken the unprecedented step of writing to you collectively to ask that you instruct your ministers to look at the plans again.
As the Royal College of Nursing has made clear, the measure is an ‘untested gamble’ that could drastically affect the care that patients will receive. We note your pledge to establish a fairer country that works for everyone and not just the ‘privileged few’. Anyone who chooses to enter the nursing profession does so with a desire to help others; nurses are empathic and are the first and last line of patient care.
But we need more of them. Many are overworked and struggle to provide the care they would like for patients. Nursing involves long hours, short holidays and comparatively low pay. Saddling graduate nurses with university debt will badly affect the number of students who wish to take up this vocation. Students with children will be disproportionately affected as will those from less privileged backgrounds. We will no longer have a nursing profession that reflects the patients they serve.
Another concern is the great uncertainty among many foreign nurses working in the NHS over the plans for Britain to quit the European Union. On July 21, the House of Lords debated the impact Brexit would have on the NHS and social care, and Baroness Mary Watkins said: “The decision to leave the EU leaves us with serious uncertainty on the current and future supply of the lifeblood of our NHS, the private, voluntary and social care sectors—namely, the workforce.”
This nursing workforce is a precious resource that is at risk of being undermined by these proposals. We appeal to you to intervene and ask for a full review of the impact of both Brexit and scrapping the bursary.
Though we are editors of rival publications we stand united in asking you to think again over student bursaries if you wish to leave a legacy on the NHS to be proud of.
We would be very keen to meet you or your minister to discuss possible solutions. We look forward to hearing from you.
Angela Sharda, deputy editor, Nursing in Practice
Jenni Middleton, editor, Nursing Times
Graham Scott, Editor, Nursing Standard
cc. Secretary of State for Health, Rt Honourable Jeremy Hunt
cc. Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Diane Abbott