Union predicts workforce crisis if plan to axe bursaries goes ahead

Unite calls changes to nursing student bursaries ‘a cynical cost-cutting exercise’

Government plans to replace nursing students’ bursaries with loans will cause a workforce crisis and lead to turmoil within the NHS, claims Unite.

The UK’s biggest union – representing 100,000 health workers – made the prediction ahead of today’s Opposition Day debate  which has been called by the shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander.

A public consultation on how to best implement the plan was launched last month, and runs until June 30.

Unite’s national officer for health Colenzo Jarret-Thorpe called the proposal to axe bursaries ‘a cynical cost-cutting exercise’ that will make NHS trusts even more dependent on agency staff and leave nursing students with £50,000 of debt after graduation.

He added: ‘Abolishing NHS student bursaries will stoke up a future NHS workforce crisis as the prospects of soaring debt will deter many from pursuing a career in public service and be a barrier for mature students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds entering health professions.

‘The government needs to listen to widespread concerns and ditch this policy now.’

Opposition debates occur 20 times a year, and allow the other parties to challenge the government’s decisions on key issues, and call for a vote which the whole House of Commons takes part in. Only once since 1978 has the government lost an opposition debate vote.

Nursing student and Unite member Danielle Tiplady hopes to beat the odds today and with her colleagues will be supporting the debate with a demonstration in Parliament Square.

She said: ‘I hope that today, the House of Commons votes to restore the bursary, as it is not a cost but an investment in the health and wellbeing of us all.’

All health unions plan to lobby parliament on May 25, with thousands of students seeking to meet their respective MPs to persuade them to support the #bursaryorbust campaign.