At breaking point: nursing students head to Westminster to tell MPs of their money struggles

Health minister Stephen Hammond promises to write to the RCN this week

Health minister Stephen Hammond promises to write to the RCN this week

Students took their concerns to parliament. Picture: iStock

Nursing students fighting for more funding have secured the promise of a response from the government within days.

Health minister Stephen Hammond said he and his boss health secretary Matt Hancock would be writing to the RCN on the issue. 

‘We will work with college,’ he promised. 

Lobby of parliament

The minister was speaking at a Westminster lobbying event organised by the RCN at which nursing students described the struggles they faced through lack of financial support. 

Some students told Nursing Standard they had to do two jobs in addition to their placements just to make ends meet.

‘You’re trying to balance the safety of your patients with the need to survive’

Jemma James, third-year nursing student

The students said these intense work schedules had made them ill, with some taking antidepressants to cope. 

Pressures on families

Third-year student Grace Paige, who has a four-year-old son said the financial pressures had forced her family to give up rented accommodation, with she and her partner having to move back with their respective parents. 

Ms Paige said the profession is one that requires ‘love’ to pursue. ‘Unfortunately, love doesn’t pay the bills,’ she added.

Patient safety

Fellow third-year student Jemma James said she does two to three bank shifts a week as a healthcare assistant, in addition to the 37.5 hours she works on placement. 

Ms James said: ‘It isn’t safe and I’m not going to shy away from that.’ 

She said financial pressures were forcing students to decide between safe working practices and economic survival. 

‘You’re trying to balance the safety of your patients with the need to survive,’ she said. 

Ms James called for a rethink of how nursing students are supported. ‘The bursary wasn’t fit, the loan system isn’t fit, we need something else.’

RCN proposals

RCN acting general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘The government has heard the call – today in the house new health minister Stephen Hammond committed to ensure funding support for the future supply of nurses as part of the ten-year plan for the NHS.

‘He also committed to consider the funding proposals set out by the RCN, and work with the college to address the fall in student numbers and the 42,000 nurse vacancies that are crippling our healthcare system.’

This article was updated at 9.55am on Thursday 22 November to reflect revised information received from the RCN.

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