Bursaries and safer staffing among promises by Jeremy Corbyn at RCN congress

Plus EU citizens working in NHS will be given right to remain, Labour leader has pledged.
Jeremy Corbyn

Nursing student bursaries will be reintroduced under a Labour government, and European Union (EU) citizens working in the NHS will be given the right to remain, Jeremy Corbyn pledged today.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at RCN congress.
Picture: John Houlihan

Speaking at RCN congress in Liverpool, the Labour Party leader received huge cheers when he said: 'We will fund training and restore bursaries for nurses.'

He added that this would boost recruitment by removing the fear of debt.

Nurse numbers

Asked by Nursing Standard whether he would cap the number of bursaries, as is the case in Scotland, he said: 'I think you have to look at the numbers of nurses we need and recruit accordingly.

'I don't you think can say it's totally open-ended, but we must make sure there is a realistic assessment of the nursing needs of the NHS.

'If you look at the age profile of the health service workforce, if we don't recruit more doctors and nurses and train more of them, then we will have a major staffing problem in five, ten years' time'

Mental health champion

In his speech to a packed main hall, Mr Corbyn said he was committed to introducing safer staffing legislation. He also promised to create a mental health minister post, to ensure parity of esteem between mental and physical health.

Mr Corbyn said he recognised the RCN's decision to ballot for pay and was committed to lifting the public sector pay cap. He added: 'While Jeremy Hunt remains secretary of state, I hope he will take heed of the decision you have made.'

Retirement age

During a question and answer session, nurse Matthew Sidebottom asked if it was fair to nurses, and their patients, to be expected to work in a draining job until the age of 68 before retiring.

Smiling, Mr Corbyn said nurses would have to wait until tomorrow when the Labour manifesto is officially announced; the document is expected to include a pledge to lower the retirement age.

In a press conference following his speech, Mr Corbyn promised that – from day one of a Labour government – EU staff working in the NHS would be guaranteed the right to remain.

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