‘Length of NHS service could dictate extent of student loan repayment’

Student loan repayment rules could be used to improve NHS nurse retention, proposes policy expert. 
Howard Catton

The amount nursing graduates will be required to repay of their student loan could be linked to length of NHS service, says a policy expert.

Howard Catton
Howard Catton. Picture: Barney Newman

International Council of Nurses consultant on nursing and health policy Howard Catton suggested the idea as one way to lessen the financial burden on graduates.

Another option would be to use the savings made by scrapping the bursary to provide scholarships and hardship funds, or US-style ‘forgivable loans’ where all or part of a loan is written off or repayment deferred.


The government sparked outcry when it announced last month that bursaries for nursing students in England will be scrapped in August 2017.

Ministers say the changes will fund 10,000 extra training places and give students 25% more financial support. But the RCN says the move means nurses will face debts of up to £50,000.

The Nuffield Trust health charity estimates the government will save £650 million a year by abolishing the bursary.

Mr Catton told Nursing Standard: ‘If the government is serious about the loans system increasing the numbers that come into nursing, then it should use that saving as a fund to support forgivable loans.’


Health minister Philip Dunne, who announced the changes to funding following a three-month consultation, insisted the government had listened to feedback, and had made some concessions, including grants of £1,000 a year to help cover childcare fees, placement travel expenses and accommodation costs.

An exceptional hardship fund is to be created in partnership with organisations including the RCN, but the 12-month paid maternity leave period currently provided by the bursary system will end.