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Scrapping bursaries may result in a 'collapse' in mental health courses

Loans will prevent mature students entering the specialty, says respected lecturer 

 

A psychiatric nursing lecturer from King’s College London has admitted he would not be where he is if he had been unable to receive the nursing bursary which the government is now planning to scrap.

Len Bowers fears that mental health nursing will be particularly affected by the government’s plan to replace bursaries with loans as people who train to go into mental health nursing tend to join the profession ‘at a more mature stage of their lives and are less likely to be able to survive [without the bursary]’.

He added: ‘Looking back on my career, would I have come back if I had to take on an £18,000 loan to do so? Probably not.’

He predicts a ‘collapse’ of post-graduate trainee courses and says the fewer applications they do get will ‘be from younger, less experienced people'.

Nursing students at King's College have been behind many of the recent protests – including a march in London on January 9 – against chancellor George Osborne’s decision announced in last year’s autumn statement which is due for consultation in the coming weeks.

A week of protest is planned, starting February 8, in which students hope to stage rallies, hold public meetings and organise petitions against the government's proposal.

Despite Professor Bowers' claims, the scrapping of the bursary has been backed by the Council of Deans, which has been lobbying the government on the issue.

The Department of Health and ministers including health secretary Jeremy Hunt have all defended the plan saying it will allow 10,000 extra nurses to be trained by 2020.

Prime minister David Cameron was last week drawn into the bursary debate.

During prime minister's questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘The repayment for a student nurse once qualified amounts to a pay cut of £900 for each nurse. Why is the prime minister punishing them when we need these nurses in the NHS?’

He went on to read a letter from a mental health nurse called Vicky from York saying she is a single mum aged 33 with debts from a previous degree and without the bursary would not have been able to study nursing.

He added: ‘She is somebody who we need in our NHS; we need as a mental health nurse.

‘We are losing her skill, her dedication, her aspiration to help the entire community.’

In response Mr Cameron said: ‘Two out of three Vickys who turn up wanting to be nurses are turned away by the current system.

‘So we are bringing in people from Bulgaria, from Romania, or the other side of the world to do the nursing jobs we should be training British people to do.

‘The British people want to train as nurses, the NHS wants those nurses, this government will fund those nurses so let’s help them train and improve our health service.’

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