'Give students in Wales long-term certainty over bursary'

Royal College of Midwives appeals for lasting commitment to degree funding as minister extends bursary to 2019

Royal College of Midwives appeals for lasting commitment to degree funding as minister extends bursary to 2019

Welsh health and social services secretary Vaughan Gething

Welsh health and social services secretary Vaughan Gething has confirmed the NHS bursary will be extended to nursing students starting their studies in the country in September 2019.

The Labour minister said: ‘Healthcare students are the future of our NHS, which is why, unlike in England, we are continuing to support them during their studies in return for a commitment to work in Wales.  

‘This sends a clear message about how much we value our healthcare workforce and sets out our commitment to the future of our NHS.’

But Royal College of Midwives director for Wales Helen Rogers said students needed certainty beyond 2019.

'We have had this and previous announcements which is great but this is stop-start decision-making,' she said. 

Ms Rogers urged the Welsh government to make a more long-term commitment to the bursary. 

The government in England controversially scrapped the bursary for nursing students in August 2017 and replaced it with tuition fees, with the number of nursing applicants taking a subsequent nosedive.

The latest Universities and Colleges Admissions Service figures show there were 47,390 nursing applicants in England in March 2016 when the bursary was in place, which then declined to 36,720 in 2017 when the bursary was scrapped. The figure fell further in March this year to 31,750.

Decline in nursing applicants

Although the trend is not as stark as in England, Wales has also experienced a decline in nursing applicants over the past two years. 

The number of applicants fell from 3,100 in March 2016 to 2,780 in 2017. The situation then stabilised, with 2,780 applicants reported in March this year.

Overall, nursing applicants in the UK have declined by almost 28% over the past three years, with total number falling from 60,350 in 2016 to 43,700 in 2018.

The Welsh bursary is for eligible students studying to become nurses, midwives or allied health professionals and is contingent on recipients agreeing to work in Wales for at least two years post-qualification.

Planning the workforce

The RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly welcomed Mr Gething's announcement. She said: ‘The RCN in Wales looks forward to working with the Welsh Government to further develop sustainable workforce planning that will ensure patients get the quality of care that they deserve.’

Welsh Government figures show 2,180 students applied for the bursary in 2017-18, with 97% agreeing they would work in Wales post-qualification.

In 2016 the government in England justified its decision to abolish student bursaries by stating it would enable 10,000 more training places to be funded by 2020 and provide students with about 25% more financial support.

Scotland and Northern Ireland continue to offer bursaries to eligible students.

Further information

The UCAS Nursing Applicants Report for 2018

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