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Government avoids defeat in vote on nursing bursaries

The government comfortably avoided a symbolic defeat over funding for nursing students in the dying moments of the current Parliament.

The government comfortably avoided a symbolic defeat over funding for nursing students in the dying moments of the current Parliament.


Baroness Walmsley called the revision of the funding model for nursing
undergraduate students 'high risk'. Picture: Getty 

An opposition motion in the House of Lords on 27 April regretting the switch from bursaries to loans was defeated by 159 votes to 121, giving the government a majority of 38.

Labour former minister Lord Clark of Windermere said it was 'scandalous' for ministers to insist on nurses having to pay for their own training under changes coming into force in England in the autumn.

He said the NHS was only functioning due to the 'intense dedication' of its staff. He warned of nursing students having to pay £9,000 a year in fees over three years and entering the profession with £50,000 'hanging on their shoulders'.

For the Liberal Democrats, Baroness Walmsley said the 'high risk' revision of funding for nursing students should be 'stopped in its tracks' while alternatives were looked at.

'Fairer' cost distribution 

Labour spokesperson Lord Watson of Invergowrie said the sudden shock of loans instead of bursaries would discourage many from becoming nurses because of the fear of debt.

But Health minister Lord O'Shaughnessy defended the change and branded the opposition move 'misguided'. He said access for nursing students to the standard student support system of loans would enable more money to go into front line health services and help secure the future supply of nurses by removing a cap on places.

'The extension of the loans-based system to nursing and midwifery training is a natural development of reforms that has received cross-party support, successfully expanded higher education, dramatically improved the participation of disadvantaged groups and provided a fairer distribution of the costs of funding higher education,' he said.

Lord O'Shaughnessy accused the opposition of running scare stories about the impact of sensible funding changes.


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