Nurses should ‘pay their dues’ if they don’t work in NHS, says MP

Sir Christopher Chope says nurses should have to repay government for part of training, despite bursary being scrapped and university fees introduced in England

Sir Christopher Chope says nurses should have to repay government for part of training, despite bursary being scrapped and university fees introduced in England

Sir Christopher Chope Picture: Parliament.TV

Nurses who receive training through the NHS and then work in the private sector or abroad should have to repay part of the cost of their training, a Tory MP has said.

Sir Christopher Chope told the House of Commons that healthcare professionals should be made to pay ‘back their dues’ if they leave the NHS shortly after completing training, as a means of encouraging staff to stay working in the health service.

Sir Christopher Chope says penalties would encourage staff retention

The MP for Christchurch told a parliamentary debate on the NHS that nurses are trained in the NHS at ‘great public expense’ and, if they do not then work in the health service, should have to pay for the privilege as happens in the US.

He said: ‘I am not saying it should be made conditional upon getting help with your development as a professional and going to university that when you graduate you must be forced to work for a particular employer or the NHS.

‘But if you are going to not work for the NHS then I think you should have a system similar to what they have in the United States where you are expected to pay back some of the costs of that training.’

In reponse to Mr Chope’s comments, an RCN spokesperson said: ‘Comments like this are misplaced and misguided and show how little understanding there is of the workforce crisis in the NHS. Nurses pay for their own education and those entering the profession today begin their careers with tens of thousands of pounds of debt.

Nursing students left with huge debts after bursary scrapped

In England, the nursing student bursary was scrapped in 2017 and replaced with a tuition fees and loans system. University tuition fees for undergraduates in England are the highest in Europe, at up to £9,250 a year. The average graduate leaves with £45,000 of debt.

A recent study by Barts Charity found 30-60% of nursing graduates quit the profession within the first year of qualifying, due to intense pressure.

Adding to the debate, Labour MP Alex Cunningham said a private healthcare provider in his Stockton North constituency is currently recruiting medical staff straight from university, meaning ‘people that are being trained at the cost of the state are then being used for private profit’.

‘Invest in NHS rather than charging its workers’

But Labour MP for Jarrow Kate Osborne said it should be the Conservative government that invests in the NHS, not its workers.

She told the Commons the UK’s spending on health was 18% lower than the EU average, a shortfall of £40 billion a year.

‘It is undeniable to most of us that the NHS is in crisis and it is being pushed into an avoidable and unprecedented collapse after 13 years of Conservative mismanagement,’ she said.

‘Instead of seeking ways of punishing people for leaving the profession, we need to see more energy focused on recruiting people into the profession – and retaining the experienced staff we already have.’

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