Nurses To Osborne: It's Bursary Or Bust
Murray Jones, Features Writer
Just days after an apparent truce in the junior doctor's dispute, the government is again facing resistance from healthcare workers - this time from student nurses.
In response to the Chancellor's spending review last week, large protests were held this week outside the Department of Health in Whitehall. Anger was focused particularly on his plans to scrap bursaries and have prospective student nurses apply for loans instead.
Ministers claim the move will save £800m a year, but appear to be at odds with health care workers over the wider implications for the profession and the NHS.
Protesters claim the government is ignoring the profound effect that the removal of the bursary will have on the NHS.
'Mr Osborne is creating a workforce that will be heavily in debt and based on the ability to pay, not the ability to care', said an NHS student attending the protest.
They highlighted how it's almost impossible to find employment that fits around the rigorous placement hours and it was the bursary that alleviated this problem.
The government has tried to sweeten the deal, by removing the cap on the number of student nurses, claiming it will create 10,000 new NHS student places. However, this cap is determined by the government and could be scrapped without the removal of bursaries. When I presented this figure to an NHS student, they responded by asking 'who is going to supervise these extra 10,000 students?' considering the profession is already significantly understaffed.
Being a student nurse is certainly a different experience to most degree courses. 50% of their time is spent working within the NHS, on placement. There is indignation amongst student nurses that they will effectively be paying to work.
The fact that students will now have to apply for loans will put a considerable number of people off pursuing a healthcare career. Nursing attracts a large number of mature students, for whom it is a second career, thus a bursary is often vital. A poll by Unison found that, of the 2,000 nurses polled, 91% would not have applied for their nursing degree without access to their bursary.
Considering the historic vote in the Commons over Syria, the protest is unlikely to make many headlines. However a petition to 'Keep the NHS Bursary' had over 130,000 signatures by the time of the protest - well passing the 100,000 threshold needed to force a debate in Parliament, which is scheduled for January.
So for student nurses, the protest was just the beginning. And for the government - yet another battle with NHS staff is on the horizon.
Nurses To Osborne: It's Bursary Or Bust, 3rd December 2015, 20:02 PM