Plan to scrap nursing bursary should be axed, says RCN

Government has not thought hard enough about the risks to changes in funding, says RCN chief Janet Davies

The RCN has called on the government to immediately halt its plan to scrap the nursing bursary. The college says the proposal poses a grave risk to the future of nurse education funding.

In its most strongly worded statement to date, the college said the evidence for removing the bursary and replacing it with a student loan does not exist, and an alternative should be found. 

RCN general secretary Janet Davies, said: ‘The government has not thought hard enough about the risks of these proposals. It hopes to increase nurse numbers but the plans aren’t reflecting the realities of modern nurse training and could actually have the completely opposite effect.’

The proposals, due to take effect from August 2017, will mean nursing students receive loans to pay for their tuition fees and living costs.

The government says the changes will create up to 10,000 more training places by 2020 and provide student nurses with around 25% more financial support than they currently receive.

But the RCN has said the plan: 

Is not fair because nursing students cannot take on extra work because of their placements and longer term times.

Fails to explain how extra placements will be funded.

Could reduce access to nursing and make workforce planning even more difficult.

Ms Davies said: ‘It is time to go back to the drawing board, and the RCN will work with the government to identify a fair, effective and sustainable funding system for nursing education.’

King’s College London nursing student Danielle Tiplady, part of the Bursary or Bust campaign group, said: ‘The government would be wise to listen to such an evidence-based and healthcare worker orientated organisation. The RCN knows what it is talking about. 

‘If the government doesn’t listen to them, it goes to show it is an ideological attack on the NHS.’ 

Ms Tiplady agreed that nursing students cannot take on extra work to pay for their studies as easily as non-healthcare students because the demands of placements. She also queried how the government could provide more mentors for a greater number of nursing students.

‘Nurses are leaving the profession in their droves; it is so sad,’ she said. ‘There aren’t the mentors to educate any more nurses.’

Other healthcare unions, including Unison and Unite, have opposed the axing of the bursary, and a joint union lobby of Parliament is planned for May 25.

The RCN will be responding to the consultation, which runs until June 30.

Click here to take part.