Move to save postgraduate bursary fails, but some students will be offered grants

One-off payments of £10,000 promised for students in less popular disciplines 

A last-ditch attempt to save England’s postgraduate nursing bursary has failed, but the government will offer grants to attract students to undersubscribed disciplines.

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Health minister Stephen Barclay told the Commons in last night's debate the grants would encourage postgraduate applicants to mental health, learning disability and district nursing.

£9.1 million fund

The £10,000 grants will come from a £9.1 million fund. An additional £900,000 was announced for postgraduate students studying in regions where there are significant shortages in particular fields. 

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘This appears to be a welcome admission from the government that more needs to be done to convince graduates from other disciplines to study nursing,’ she said.

However, she added saving the postgraduate bursary would have helped to boost nurse numbers even more.

'Students should be financially supported'

‘Even though it’s a small number of people each year, this two-year course is a fast way to train a registered nurse,’ she said.

‘Nursing must be expanded at scale and pace to keep patients safe and students should be encouraged and financially supported.’

The RCN estimates just under 1,000 students sign up for postgraduate nursing courses each year.

Labour’s attempt to block the abolition of the postgraduate bursary was defeated in last night’s Commons vote by 273 to 199.

Speaking afterwards, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the defeat would add to staffing problems in the NHS.

Loans to cover tuition fees

‘The government’s decision to abolish NHS bursaries has led to a huge fall in numbers applying for these courses and will make the NHS staffing crisis even worse,’ he said.

From August 2018, postgraduate students will have to take out a loan from the Student Loans Company to cover their tuition costs.

The latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service indicate nursing student applications in England have continued to fall.  

Nurse First postgraduate programme

The ‘golden hello’ is not the first time the government has attempted to attract people to postgraduate nursing courses.

Last year, 40 people enrolled in NHS England’s Nurse First postgraduate programme in which graduates with degrees in related disciplines are recruited on to learning disability and mental health courses.

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