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Healthcare leaders urge David Cameron to ditch plans to scrap nursing bursary

Heads of 20 major health organisations pen open letter to prime minister 
David Cameron

The RCN has led the heads of more than 20 major healthcare organisations in an open letter to prime minister David Cameron condemning proposals to scrap the nursing bursary.

The letter urges Mr Cameron to take ‘immediate action’ to halt proposals to replace the bursary with tuition fees and loans, and asks for a meeting to discuss their concerns directly.

Signed by the heads of Unison, the Royal College of Midwives, The Queen’s Nursing Institute, the Royal College of GPs and the British Medical Association.

'Untested gamble'

The letter brands the move an ‘untested gamble’ which threatens to reduce the supply of future nurses and midwives while patient demand is rising.

It also accuses the government of a ‘worrying lack of clarity or consultation’ about the effect it could have on those who need to train for more advanced or specialist roles, such as health visitors

The RCN has led the heads of more than 20 major healthcare organisations in an open letter to prime minister David Cameron condemning proposals to scrap the nursing bursary.

The letter urges Mr Cameron to take ‘immediate action’ to halt proposals to replace the bursary with tuition fees and loans, and asks for a meeting to discuss their concerns directly.

Signed by the heads of Unison, the Royal College of Midwives, The Queen’s Nursing Institute, the Royal College of GPs and the British Medical Association.

'Untested gamble'

The letter brands the move an ‘untested gamble’ which threatens to reduce the supply of future nurses and midwives while patient demand is rising.

It also accuses the government of a ‘worrying lack of clarity or consultation’ about the effect it could have on those who need to train for more advanced or specialist roles, such as health visitors or district nurses.

Economists' warning

The government claims the proposals to change funding for nursing, midwifery and other health students will fund up to 10,000 more training places by 2020 and provide students with about 25% more financial support.

Yet a financial analysis by London Economics has found it could cost the NHS 2,000 new recruits a year.

The full text of the letter reads:

'As the leaders of professional organisations, health unions, patient organisations and Royal Colleges, we are calling on you to take immediate action to halt the government proposals to reform student funding for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals (AHPs).

Future of the workforce

'The government’s proposals on student funding for nursing, midwifery and AHPs are an untested gamble with the future of the workforce that have not been properly risk assessed. There is little explanation or consultation about what impact these funding changes will have on the plans of those who need to train for more advanced or specialist roles, such as health visitors or district nurses, at a time when their expertise is needed by patients more than ever.

'The plans to switch to a system of loans threatens to reduce the supply of future nurses, midwives and AHPs at a time when patient demand is rising.

'While loans and tuition fees exist in other parts of higher education, it is important to recognise that those changes occurred after more than a decade of phased introduction.

'The impact will be worse in health because there are no transition arrangements.

Disproportionate effect on women

'There is no safety net for the NHS, these proposals will have a detrimental effect on the current and future NHS workforce, and also on the quality of patient care and safety provided in England.

'We are deeply concerned that these plans could disproportionately affect more mature students, women, students with children and those who already have a degree, people who have always made up an important part of the NHS workforce.

Many of these people will be unwilling or unable to take on even more debt, and their vital contribution will be lost.

'Under these plans, the government has failed to allocate any funding for extra clinical placements and mentors, vital in giving students real, practical experience.

'Short-sighted'

'Healthcare students can spend up to 50% of their studies in clinical settings, so the quality of their education experience could be significantly affected.

'These plans are a short-sighted attempt to solve a long-term and complicated problem. They have not been properly risk-assessed, and continuing with them as they stand would be nothing short of reckless.

'We urge you to reconsider these plans and to meet with us to hear our concerns directly.

'We would also be keen to discuss the ways in which we can work together to create a health care workforce that is well motivated and sustainable for the years to come.'

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