Petition backing nursing bursaries prompts parliamentary debate

Government plans to scrap bursaries for nursing students will now be debated by MPs early next year

A petition against scrapping bursaries for nursing students has attracted more than 137,000 signatures in only one week, which means the government's plans will now be debated by MPs in parliament.

The Keep the NHS Bursary petition appeared on the website last week in response to chancellor George Osborne’s decision to replace the grant with a student loan during his spending review.

Under the changes, due to come into force from September 2017, nursing students will need to take out loans to pay for tuition fees and their living expenses.

The government has said it will increase financial support available to students by 25%, and scrapping publicly funded nursing bursaries will provide savings that can fund 10,000 new training places.

But critics have said nursing students could be saddled with debts of up to £50,000.

As the petition attracted more than 100,000 signatures, parliament was required to consider debating the issue and it has now been agreed that the debate will happen on January 11.

Staffordshire University based nursing student Kat Webb, who set up the petition, told Nursing Standard she is delighted by the news and is hopeful the debate will prompt the government to rethink its policy.

She said: ‘It has been a bit surreal. I never thought it would get such a response so quickly, or that something I started would be debated in the House of Commons.

‘Nursing students have been quiet for too long, but the chancellor’s decision was a step too far.’

Although she has not benefited from a bursary personally, she knows many friends and colleagues who have.

She added: ‘I know I could not do what my friends do if there was no bursary, it would basically mean having to pay to go to work for half the year.

‘Nursing degrees are not like others, we don’t just go to lectures in one building, we travel long distances on placements to accumulate the 2,300 practice hours over three years to qualify.

‘It is so sad to see nurses put in a position where they have to choose between the career they love or avoiding thousands of pounds worth of debt.’

Hundreds of nursing students are due to stage a protest at the Department for Health at 2pm today (December 2) about the government plan.

To sign the petition click here


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