No sign of £10,000 ‘golden hello’ promised for some postgraduate nursing students

RCN calls delay a ‘serious missed opportunity’
Stephen Barclay

The promised ‘golden hello’ funding for postgraduate students who apply to fields of nursing that are struggling to recruit is yet to materialise, despite university courses being just weeks away from starting. 

Health minister Stephen Barclay.  Picture: Shutterstock

Health minister Stephen Barclay announced the £10,000 incentives in May, as a recruitment drive for postgraduate students in the September sign-up to mental health, learning disability and district nursing courses.

But the failure of the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) to release any further details on the scheme has been slammed by the RCN as a ‘serious missed opportunity’.

One-off payment

A DH spokesperson told Nursing Standard that the funding is a one-off payment for September 2018’s intake of students, and that details would be released ‘very soon, with the September recruitment in mind’.

But the government's delay has led to fears that the funding arrangement may be postponed until 2019.

Additionally, Nursing Standard has discovered that even if funding becomes available for those starting this September, students will not actually receive the ‘golden hellos’ until 2021 at the earliest – at least a year after they complete their two-year postgraduate courses. This would mean students still having to take out a loan to cover tuition fees and living costs.

RCN associate director of policy and public affairs Lara Carmona called for the government to address the delay: ‘In England, fields such as mental health and learning disabilities have seen a steep decline in nurse numbers, and understaffed services are struggling to give patients the care they deserve.

‘The secretary of state must make funding available at the earliest opportunity. The longer the delay, the more acute the shortages become.’

Mental health nurse numbers have fallen by around 5,000 in the NHS in England since 2010, while there are 2,121 less learning disability nurses – a fall of 40% – since 2010.

RCN director of nursing, policy and practice Dame Donna Kinnair this week warned that learning disability services risked a return to a ‘bleak Victorian image’.

RCN mental health forum chair Ed Freshwater told Nursing Standard: ‘This initiative of "golden hellos", which has failed to materialise, seems like just more empty words.’

He said current staffing levels restricted nurses from doing their jobs properly, and that mental healthcare would not improve until nurses were respected, with teams properly staffed, and a long-term funding arrangement in place rather than a one-off payout.

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