Plan to scrap NHS student bursaries is misguided

PACGPs Jan 2016Bristol South MP Karin Smyth says government plans to scrap NHS bursaries for student nurses and midwives from 2017 are ‘misguided’ and will be hugely damaging for people across the city.

At present student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals are entitled to receive bursaries to help with the cost of their studies, but the Chancellor has announced an intention to remove these from September next year.

Karin Smyth MP said: “Ministers don’t seem to understand the unique circumstances of student nurses and midwives. There are many reasons why this proposal is misguided.

“With long working hours in clinical practice throughout their degrees, combined with their academic studies, many NHS students cannot also sustain a part-time job to supplement income, like many students who are working towards other types of degree. Three 12.5 hour shifts a week, combined with many hours-per-week study is already more than a full-time job.

“These students are currently exempt from tuition fees, and receive a combination of bursaries and a ‘reduced rate’ student loan to help them with the costs of living, travel and study. Even with these current levels of financial support in place, many struggle to make ends meet.

“These students, willing to pledge a career in the NHS to serve us all, are more likely to be mature students, and much more likely to be women. I’ve met many Bristol South constituents in their late 20s, 30s and 40s who’ve re-trained into nursing, often after having families. Many had already completed one degree when they were younger and most had caring commitments. The vital additional life experience they’ve gathered over the years is a real asset to our NHS, and should be recognised as such. It’s especially true in the mental health sector of nursing.

“The shortage of nurses in the NHS risks making the recruitment and retention of staff even harder. The Government should drop its plans and launch a proper consultation on how to both improve the support available to nursing students, and increase the number of nurses in the NHS.

“I believe student nurses and midwives deserve to be treated differently, and that the bursary is a vital element of a package that helps encourage the right people into nursing and midwifery. As one student constituent wrote to me recently: The ability to train as a nurse or midwife must be judged on ability to care, not ability to pay.”

Note: Nursing, midwifery and allied health professional students currently pay no tuition fees for their studies and are entitled to a combination of a non-means tested bursary, a means-tested bursary and a ‘reduced rate’ student loan to help with the costs of living while they study and train. George Osborne announced in his autumn statement that he would be scrapping bursaries for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, and, from September 2017, charging them tuition fees.