RCN congress unanimous on 'appalling' bursary decision

Members call for government to work with royal college on other options for student funding
RCN students

RCN members have united against the 'appalling' decision to abolish nursing bursaries during an impassioned debate at the 2016 congress in Glasgow.

Members voted unamiously to call on the government to work with RCN to 'look at all the options and agree future student nurse funding arrangements'.

So many nursing students attending the event today wanted to speak on the subject - proposed by Rhys Mood - that extra measures were called for.

RCN student members in their distinctive pink shirts gathered on stage at congress during the debate on the axing of bursaries. Picture: John Houlihan

The chair of congress Stuart McKenzie secured agreement from members to allow speakers a minute each and for all of the nursing students to take the stage at the same time.

Wearing bright pink shirts the men and women who all agree they would not be in nursing without bursaries gathered behind nominated speaker Kathryn Davies.


She said the incredible strength of feeling displayed ‘almost means I don’t have to say anything at all’ but went on to describe bursaries as ‘lifelines’ for students like herself.

Ms Davies spoke of the 'daunting and stressful' thought of student debt that would last a lifetime.

Kathryn Davies spoke about the daunting thought of student debt if bursaries are cut. Picture: John Houlihan

South west London branch member Mike Hayward challenged health minister Ben Gummer – who has spoken many times in favour of replacing bursaries with loans – to complete a 7 hour shift alongside a nursing student.

He added: ‘Then come back here next year and tell us you still want to take bursaries away and that you take your responsibility seriously.’

'Even worse'

Manchester Central University of Salford third year nursing student Katie Sutton reminded the members she’d last appeared 2 years ago and that ‘the issues then are even worse now’.

She added: ‘The current system of nurse education funding is not perfect, but what the government is proposing is unfair.’

Dame Betty Kershaw drew much applause when said that nursing students should be paid while on placement if the government did proceed with its plans.

Mr Mood thanked everyone for speaking in his favour while Mr McKenzie paid tribute to the ‘incredible show of support’ from the students and admitted it was impossible to let everyone who wanted to speak have their say.


The resulting vote saw members all get to wave their green FOR cards in the air as congress returned to old-fashioned methods following previous concerns over electronic systems last year at Bournemouth.

The government insists its plans will allow 10,000 extra nurses to train by 2020.

The RCN was one of 20 organisations to write to prime minister David Cameron today calling the plans ‘reckless and an untested gamble’ and warning they will deter people from working in the NHS.