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Unison leader calls plan to end nursing bursaries 'foolish and petty'

Dave Prentis of Unison addresses nursing and midwifery students in London

A health union leader told students the proposed withdrawal of the NHS nursing bursary is one of ‘the most foolish, petty and self-defeating cuts’.

Unison’s Dave Prentis was speaking to nursing and midwifery students at his union headquarters in London today. He said: ‘It would be sensible to assume that with too few staff on the wards the government would be busting a gut to recruit more student nurses. But sadly ministers’ plans will have exactly the reverse effect.

‘Axing the bursary next year will mean fewer people from ordinary backgrounds can afford to become nurses. People know how important nurses are, and can only imagine how difficult their jobs must be at times.'

He said nursing students do not follow the 'traditional student calendar', making it difficult for them to work their way through university to support themselves.

The Unison general secretary said he was 'terrified' nursing might become a profession only for the better-off.

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

The Department of Health wants to replace the bursary in England with a student loan. Ministers claim this will lift restrictions on training places and allow an extra 10,000 nurses to be trained by 2020.

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