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Nursing student bursary was ‘far from ideal,’ says nurse MP Maria Caulfield

The nursing student bursary should not be championed as the best way to train nurses and new routes into the profession should be welcomed, a Conservative MP and nurse has said

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Speaking exclusively on Nursing Standard Podcast, cancer nurse and Lewes MP Maria Caulfield said she wanted to see the government expand apprenticeship routes into nursing.

In the interview, Ms Caulfield said she hopes for a 3% pay rise for nurses and says her experiences in the NHS are part of the reason she voted leave in the referendum on the UK leaving the European Union.

'Not a well paid system'

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Ms Caulfield, who was elected to parliament in 2015 and continues to work the occasional nursing shift, said she had two pressing nursing concerns when she entered parliament – ensuring the nursing bursary remained in place and to get nurses a pay rise.

But she added: ‘I trained under the bursary and it is far from an ideal scheme.

‘It annoys me slightly, when it is held up as a beacon of modernity and the way we should be training nurses, because I lived on £400 a month on the bursary scheme, so it’s not a well-paid system.

‘There was also a restriction on the numbers of places, so it would only allow for a certain number of nurses to be trained per year – turning thousands away.’

Ms Caulfield also raised concerns over the number of people who dropped out of nursing courses when the bursary was in place.

‘I’m supportive of the nurse degree entry system, but there was an argument it was too academic and then when student nurses actually experienced a hospital or community setting, often 18 months into their training, there was a high drop-out rate because it wasn’t really for them.’

She said the more clinically-based apprenticeship and nursing associate routes were a better way to go.

Listen to Ms Caulfield speak further on these issues and also discuss Brexit and research opportunities.

Also on the podcast:

RCN head of nursing practice Wendy Preston explains the college’s new credentialing system for advanced nurse practitioners.


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