Unions plan to lobby government over 'catastrophic' plan to scrap nursing bursary

The government has launched a consultation into the future of the nursing bursary

Healthcare unions are to join forces to oppose the government's plan to scrap the nursing bursary.

It follows yesterday's launch of a three-month consultation into the proposal which confirmed the government plans to press ahead with introducing student loans despite strong opposition from nursing students.

The government wants to scrap the bursary and make nursing students fund tuition fees, accommodation and expenses by taking out loans. 

It has said it will be able to provide 10,000 more nurse training places by 2020 but opponents of the plan have said it will deter people from entering the profession.

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams described the consultation as ‘confirming our worst fears’ that the government has ‘already made its decision’.

She highlighted the fact the consultation makes it clear it is seeking views only on how to implement its plan by September 2017 and not on the principle of the change.

She added this was ‘deeply worrying’ and vowed her union would ‘leave no stone unturned in our battle to depose’ the plan due to it being ‘fundamentally the wrong choice that will have a catastrophic impact, not only on the future of workforce planning, but on the NHS’.

Ms Adams revealed Unison was working with other unions including the RCN, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Unite, to lobby parliament on May 25.

An RCN spokesperson said it will seek members' views before responding to the consultation but added it intended to push for ‘a model of student funding that encourages people to join the profession and recognises how unique a nursing degree is’.

Nursing student Danielle Tiplady has led several high-profile protests against the plan since it was first outlined by chancellor George Osborne in his spending review last autumn.

She said she would have been unable to afford her degree course at Kings’ College London without a bursary and added: ‘I urge each and every one of you to complete the consultation and play a part in shaping the future workforce of the NHS before it is too late.’

The government’s case for making the changes – which will apply only to England – is included on the consultation website alongside an assessment of the impact they are likely to have on the funding of health education.

Ministers estimate full-time students will receive about 25% more up-front support for living costs than is currently available.

It said the change will allow it to lift the cap on training places and will mean hospital trusts are able to recruit far more ‘homegrown’ nurses and not have to rely so heavily on staff from overseas.

The consultation ends on June 30 and can be completed here.


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