Local MP condemns government’s plan to scrap NHS Bursary for student nurses

Steve McCabe MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak has criticised the government’s plans to scrap the NHS Bursary for students of nursing, midwifery and allied health subjects.

As it stands, student nurses do not pay tuition fees, and receive a means tested bursary during their training to help support them with the cost of living. During their degrees nursing and midwifery students are required, by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), to work in clinical practice where they are subject to the full 24 hour care cycle. Nurses work evenings, nights and weekends totalling some 2,300 hours during the period of their degree.

It’s true that some student nurses work alongside their studies like other students but unlike most students, they also work in full time placements for around half the year as well as attending lectures and completing assignments. They don’t have long summer breaks or even an Easter break. Some estimates suggest that the abolition of the bursary could force student nurses to work around 70 hours per week as well as attending to their studies and patient care. This clearly is a recipe for disaster.

Under the government’s plans all non-payable student support for these nurses will be abolished and tuition fees of over £9,000 applied to their courses. This will see nurses, midwives and allied health professionals starting their careers with debts of around £51,600 which they will be expected to begin paying back as soon as they graduate. As a result, nurses will experience an immediate pay cut of around £900 a year.

Steve signed an Early Day Motion this week, calling on the government to drop these plans and instead consult fully on how best to fund our future NHS workforce.

He said:

“I don’t believe this government is committed to investing in the NHS. At a time when we should be doing all we can to train recruit and retain our much valued health care professionals the government seems intent on discouraging people from entering the health professions and driving out those who already work for the NHS.

“I have heard from many nurses in my constituency who feel their goodwill and love of the job is being slowly extinguished. David Cameron says that abolishing the bursary will bring more people into training, I believe it will have the exact opposite effect. Far from being able to trust this government with the NHS we are seeing daily that we’ll be lucky, come the time of the next general election, to have even a residual health service in some parts of the country. We have trusts in deficit, doctors on strike and GP practices closing. If they get away with abolishing bursaries and destroying the career path for many young people we’ll experience a disastrous nursing shortage which will destroy the NHS.”

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