Petition in favour of nursing bursaries hits more than 100,000 signatures

A second-year nursing student's petition calling on the government to keep bursaries for students on nursing degrees has received more than 113,000 signatures in just days

A petition calling on the government to retain bursaries for nursing students has amassed more than 113,000 signatures just three days since its launch.

Staffordshire University second-year nursing student Kat Webb launched the petition ahead of chancellor George Osborne’s spending review and autumn statement to campaign for the bursary to be kept.

Mr Osborne announced this week that publicly funded nursing bursaries are to be scrapped and replaced with loans, with the new funding model expected in September 2017. He also said the ‘self-defeating cap’ on nurse training places would be removed to pave way for an extra 10,000 nursing students.

Following Mr Osborne’s announcement, there was a surge in signatures to the petition and now the total exceeds 113,000, which means it will be considered for parliamentary debate.

Ms Webb’s petition states that taking away the bursary could force many students into working 70-hour weeks because the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s requirement is for nursing students to complete 4,600 hours of theoretical and practical study.

She said scrapping the bursary could compromise nursing students’ studies and patient care.

The petition reads: ‘Student nurses often work alongside our studies, like most students. But unlike most students, we work full time hours in placement for around half the year, and spend the rest of the time in lectures, without a summer holiday, or an Easter break, as well as completing our assignments.’

Ms Webb told Nursing Standard: ‘I do not feel the government’s decision is justified. The general consensus among nursing students is that if the bursary is scrapped most people would not be able to consider embarking on a nursing degree.’

She said that she wants students to work closely with health unions to ensure the government considers the details of the plans carefully and look at what consequences it could have for future students before implementing them.

‘If bursaries are to be scrapped, the government needs to have conversations about how to help nursing students cope financially and not be put further into debt,’ she said.

RCN council student member Sylvia Duval, who is a third-year nursing student in London, said scrapping bursaries would only be feasible if nurses’ salaries were increased.

‘Nursing is a low-paid graduate profession with little jump in salary as the years pass,’ she said. ‘This means that nurses are never able to leave their parents’ home and could result in them resorting to food banks so the financial stress could have a massive impact on the care they’re providing.’

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said nursing students are unlike other undergraduates in that they spend 50% of their time in clinical practice and have a longer academic year.

‘These proposals will saddle future generations of nursing students with even more debt and financial pressures and unless nurses’ pay improves, many graduates will never be in a position to pay their loans back.’

The Department of Health (DH) said the new system will reduce the current reliance on expensive agency staff and the move to loans will also mean access to 25% more financial support for students during their studies.

A DH spokesperson said a consultation is due to be launched shortly on the proposals, adding: ‘There is still time to work out some of the details,’ he said. ‘We will consult representative bodies, royal colleges and students.’

Sign the petition here


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