RCN criticises ‘short-sighted’ move to scrap bursary for postgraduate nursing students

College says the government ‘seems hell-bent on reducing the supply of talent into nursing’

The RCN has said formal confirmation of the end of the postgraduate nursing bursary is 'short-sighted'.

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The college added that the government’s move goes against everything health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt had said about the need to urgently boost nursing numbers.

The RCN was responding to official confirmation that bursaries for pre-registration postgraduate nursing students will end this summer, mirroring the existing situation for undergraduate nursing students.

Last Friday, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) published guidance explaining that, from August 2018, all such trainees will have to apply for a loan from the Student Loans Company to cover their tuition fees.

Previous postgraduate exemption

The NHS bursary was scrapped for all undergraduate nursing and midwifery students, and some allied health professional students, in August 2017. However, the system for funding pre-registration postgraduates remained in place. This was because a number of postgraduate courses would not be eligible for the postgraduate master’s loan package of £10,000.

A bursary was therefore made available for a capped number of students from the 2017-18 cohort as a transitional arrangement before moving to a more 'sustainable' system.

In its new guidance on the system of loans, the DH says loans will provide these students with 'at least 25% more up-front living cost support while they study'.

To support them on clinical placements, students will also have access to non-repayable grants through the NHS Business Services Authority’s Learning Support Fund.

This provides:

  • £1,000 child dependants allowance
  • Up to £3,000 for exceptional hardship
  • Reimbursement of additional travel and accommodation costs over normal daily travel to clinical placements

Nursing vacancy crisis

However, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said the system for postgraduate students did nothing to help fill nursing vacancies in the NHS.

‘The government must expand this route, not restrict it. Graduates with existing student debt will not be falling over themselves to take out more,' she said.

‘The government seems hell-bent on reducing the supply of talent into nursing and this move calls into question its commitment to grow the nursing workforce.’

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