Policy to scrap nursing bursaries ‘failed’ before it began, claim universities

Confusion surrounds a pledge to create 10,000 extra nurse training places following the scrapping of the NHS bursary.
Bursary protest

Confusion surrounds a pledge to create 10,000 extra nurse training places after the scrapping of the NHS bursary.

There has been much opposition to the plans to scrap the nursing bursary. Picture: Barney Newman

Universities and unions claim not one single extra placement has so far been created since the announcement by the government was made almost a year ago.

Worcester University vice chancellor David Green said: ‘We were genuinely pleased to hear that 10,000 extra places would be created by 2020 and were also told scrapping the bursary meant we could admit as many students as we like.

Uncosted placements

‘But, we work very closely with our hospital trust partners and we know they simply cannot afford to add any more placements.’

Professor Green said currently the university can only take 15 students on its children’s nursing course yet many more excellent candidates would like to sign up.

‘But they have to spend 2,100 hours working in the NHS to qualify and we already know our partners cannot create those extra training placements,’ he said.

Soundbite promise

Many claimed on social media that the government had never actually pledged to fund the placements themselves.

They suggested the £9,000 tuition fees which students will now have to pay via student loans should fund them instead.

In a Twitter post, University of Manchester mental health nursing professor Steven Pryjmachuk wrote: ‘[The government] never promised funding; was just soundbite of 10,000 more places. Then told us no extra ‘tariff’ placement support – ie. do more for same.’

But Professor Green told Nursing Standard tuition fees have to pay for the 45 weeks a year students spend on site and even with a supplement that was not enough, meaning there was nothing left to give to trusts to create extra placements.

Brexit adds to recruitment worries

RCN deputy director of nursing Stephanie Aiken said: ‘Where are the nurses of the future going to come from?

‘They are not coming from Europe – we’ve seen a 96% drop in the number of new registrants since the Brexit vote. And it appears now the government has little intention of training extra nurses at home.’

She added: ‘We call on the government to make good on its promise, invest in nursing education and fund extra places – safe patient care depends on it.’

A Department of Health spokesperson insisted it was on track to create 10,000 more training places for nurses and allied health professionals by the end of the current parliament.

They recognised the 23% drop in applications this year but predicted a ‘bounceback’ next year.

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