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Plan to axe student bursary 'wrong on so many levels', Labour says

Shadow health minister Heidi Alexander tells Unison conference her party supports bursary fight

Labour shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said cutting the nursing bursary is wrong 'on so many levels’.

Heidi Alexander.  Picture credit: Barney Newman

Ms Alexander told Unison’s health conference in Brighton this morning that Labour opposes the government’s plan to replace the bursary with student loans. She told delegates her party supports Unison in fighting to retain the bursary.

Government opponents say the loss of the bursary will saddle nursing students with debt. However ministers insist it will increase the available funding and enable the expansion of training places.

Ms Alexander said: ‘When you are having to import nurses from abroad and spend millions hiring expensive agency staff, why would you risk making things even worse by putting off the next generation of students? Why would you choose to limit the nursing profession to those best able to pay?’

She said nursing students had told her fear of debt is greater for people who already have debts – or children, adding: ‘We want our nurses to reflect the populations they serve and taking the bursary away puts that at risk.’

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told the conference: ‘What we have seen from this government is nothing short of a war. A war on our staff and a war on our health services as we know them.’

Both speakers attacked health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s handling of the junior doctors' dispute.

The doctors are due to hold two one-day strikes tomorrow and on Wednesday, with the withdrawal of emergency cover for the first time in NHS history.

Mr Prentis said: ‘The junior doctors are not the only ones facing attacks. I say to Jeremy Hunt, if you come for our unsocial hours pay, we will fight back.'

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