Students protest against the government’s decision to scrap bursaries for nursing degree courses. Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary said the decision had to be taken for financial reasons, and could increase 20,000 nursing posts by 2020.
Student midwives and nurses gathered outside the Department of Health yesterday to protest the decision which was announced by Chancellor George Osborne last week. The plan is expected to save approximately £800 million per annum in government spending.
Hunt said: “The big mistake would be to duck difficult decisions and have a shortage of nurses in five years”. Speaking at the Chief Nursing Office for England’s annual conference, he also said the scrap was needed to relieve “enormous pressure on hospital finances”, and pay towards other measures in the health service.
Jeremy Hunt said he would listen to student nurses, and work with the unions over the changes. He also stated that the changes could in fact lead to an increase of student nurses from poorer backgrounds, however, unions have said that the planned measures would have the opposite effect.
Chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RSN), Janet Davies expressed: “Bursaries aren’t a luxury, they’re a lifeline. Our students don’t apply to study nursing, they apply to train to be a nurse”.
Bursaries are monies issued by the government to students, which the student does not have to pay back. The previous government made up of the coalition of the conservatives and liberal-democrats cut training spaces for nurses, which in turn left less nurses graduating and working within the health care system. The government last week decided to charge tuition for nursing courses, increasing student debt.
Nursing and medical related degrees are usually made up of placement and university studying. Placements take place at hospitals and medical centres where students learn with on-hand experience, and are expected to complete university assignments alongside working shift work or full-time hours.
“Bursaries are crucial and all this will do is deter prospective nurses from applying. Given the serious nursing shortage this will further damage what is already a very fragile NHS”. Davis added.
Dave Prentis, the union’s general secretary stated “There’s a shortage of nurses because the coalition severely cut the number of training places. It’s hard to see how scrapping the bursary will do anything other than make what is already a difficult situation much worse”.
He added: “Nursing trainees tend to be older than other students, and may already have a debt to pay off from a first degree… many people will be forced to take second and third jobs, compromising their studies and health”.
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