Nursing student on unpaid placements could not afford food
A student's account of financial struggles was heard by MPs in Westminster Hall; other healthcare staff offered to buy toilet rolls, sanitary products and food
A nursing student has told of their struggles to pay bills while working unpaid placement hours, and being given toilet roll and sanitary products by university staff as they could not afford them.
Nursing student nearly quit course after struggling to afford food
Responding to a survey by Westminster’s petitions committee ahead of a debate looking at three petitions calling for better pay and financial support for healthcare students, the nursing student said the impact of soaring living costs coupled with thousands of hours of unpaid clinical placements during their training almost forced them to quit studying.
‘I wanted to leave my course this year when I was working on placement and not able to afford food. I was so hungry and my energy was so depleted that it was affecting my work. I was struggling so much financially that the staff resorted to giving me toilet rolls, sanitary products and even paying for some food for me,’ they said.
The statement was read in a Westminster Hall debate on 20 November by Labour MP for Battersea Marsha de Cordova. She said 58% of healthcare students who responded to the committee’s survey found it difficult to afford energy bills, 19% said they had visited a food bank and 26% said they were considering using one.
Calls for students to be paid for placements
Shadow minister for social care Andrew Gwynne said: ‘This is a national scandal — a cost of living scandal that is having a devastating impact on our ability to recruit and retain staff in the NHS.’
He added that while other university students could work alongside their courses, it was ‘physically and mentally impossible’ for nursing and midwifery students to do this because of their course structure.
High numbers of nursing vacancies, the negative impact of changes to the NHS student bursary and a drop in applications to nursing courses were also raised.
Figures published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in July showed a 16% drop in applications to study nursing across the UK.
Responding to calls for healthcare students to be paid on clinical placements, Andrew Stephenson, minister of state in the Department of Health and Social Care, said the government did not have plans to do this.
He added: ‘Placements exist to give students the opportunity to learn and acquire the skills and experience they need to graduate and join the professional register.
‘All student placements should be in addition to regular staffing; they should not be used to fill gaps in staffing rotas.’
Health and social care minister says hardship funds and training grants could be accessed
Mr Stephenson added that nursing students can apply for a £5,000 training grant per year through the NHS learning support fund, a 50% increase in travel and accommodation payments and an exceptional support fund for students experiencing financial hardship.
He also outlined available childcare support, including 15 free hours of childcare a week for three and four-year-olds and parental support of £2,000 per year for eligible students.
In other news