Nursing student to take paid placements petition to parliament

After ‘living wage’ petition secures 350,000 signatures, next goal is parliamentary debate

A petition calling for nursing students to be paid while on placement has secured almost 350,000 signatures.

The fact that nursing students aren't paid for placements ‘makes it feel like we’re
free labour for the NHS’, the petition says. Picture: iStock

University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE Bristol) nursing student John Worth launched the online petition on after hearing fellow students share his concerns about balancing studies with paid work.

Mr Worth will now start a second petition on the UK parliament website – pending approval – in the hope of forcing a Westminster debate.

Petitions on the parliament website that reach 10,000 signatures must receive a response from government, while those that reach 100,000 must be considered for debate in parliament.

‘Amazed by the response’

The first-year adult nursing student told Nursing Standard: ‘I had an email from the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), who have just fobbed off this petition. They seem to think nursing numbers will be increased under the loan system, but the general consensus is the numbers are decreasing.

‘But I’m thankful for all the support and amazed by the response.’

The nursing student bursary was axed in England ahead of the autumn 2017 intake of students, in favour of the loans-based system that applies to most university courses in England.

The government has stated that students now receive on average 25% more financial support than they did under the bursary. But data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show applications to nursing degree courses have dropped by almost a third since the bursary was removed. Some courses are struggling to attract applicants, leading to learning disability nursing courses being suspended at some universities.

The RCN has also said 700 fewer nursing students started courses in September 2017 than in the previous year.

The DH confirmed its commitment to the loans-based system last week, when it responded to a Commons health and social care committee report.

Minimum age ‘not applicable’

Mr Worth wants students to be paid the minimum wage for their 35-hour-a-week placements, saying they are the eyes and ears of patient care on the ward and often carry out essential tasks.

However, in its email to Mr Worth, the DH says: ‘The reasons students are supernumerary in clinical practice are to learn the clinical skills necessary for entry to the workforce and to gain the 2,300 hours of clinical practice they are required to undertake. So, while they may be performing limited clinical duties under close supervision, they are not being paid to staff hospitals, and therefore your suggestion of a minimum wage would not be applicable.’

It adds that the DH expects the loans-based system ‘to enable universities to provide up to 10,000 nursing and other health professional training places over and above those that were funded under the bursary system during this parliament. This will open up opportunities for those nursing applicants that universities must turn down each year.

More information

The petition: Pay student nurses minimum living wage

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