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Student debt: new nurses reveal the high cost of training in England

Becky Emmins tweeted about her almost £70K debt – and others replied with even larger amounts

Becky Emmins wrote about her almost £70K debt on Twitter – and others replied with even larger amounts

Picture: iStock

Newly qualified nurses have shared stories of the crippling debts they have accumulated during preregistration nursing training in England – in one case totalling more than £80,000.

Becky Emmins, from Hertfordshire, who has just started work as a children’s nurse, said on Twitter she had amassed almost £70,000 of debt during her three-year course.

This led to her visiting a food bank three times, as well as bailiffs visiting her house, she said.

Becky Emmins wrote about her almost £70K debt on Twitter – and others replied with even larger amounts

Picture: iStock

Newly qualified nurses have shared stories of the crippling debts they have accumulated during preregistration nursing training in England – in one case totalling more than £80,000.

Becky Emmins, from Hertfordshire, who has just started work as a children’s nurse, said on Twitter she had amassed almost £70,000 of debt during her three-year course.

This led to her visiting a food bank three times, as well as bailiffs visiting her house, she said.

The amount she owes includes the annual £9,250 fee for her university course, and maintenance loans, which for nursing students are between just under £8,000 and more than £12,000 per year in England, depending on location and personal circumstances.

Nurse says financial hardship affected her children

Ms Emmins, who is RCN student committee member for the eastern region, told Nursing Standard: ‘There were days when my children didn’t go to school with a snack because we didn’t have any. They missed out on a lot of the nicer things too, like going to soft play.’

Despite always being passionate about nursing, Ms Emmins said she wouldn’t have started the course if she had known what it would cost.

A registered mental health nurse who responded to Ms Emmins’ tweet said she owed just over £73,000 in student loans, while another children’s nurse, who studied for four years, said she owed almost £81,000.

How student finance differs in other UK countries

Other respondents on Twitter pointed out the geographical disparity, with nursing students in Scotland not having to pay fees, and receiving £10,000 bursaries for the first three years of their course.

In Wales, those who commit to work for the NHS in the country for two years do not pay fees, receive £1,000 and a means-tested bursary. In Northern Ireland, nursing students resident in the country for three years do not pay fees, and have access to a means-tested bursary.

Lack of financial help ‘undermines our profession’

Patricia Marquis

RCN England director Patricia Marquis said urgent action was needed by the government.

‘Inadequate financial support undervalues and undermines our entire profession,’ she added. ‘Nursing students who can’t afford to study won’t make it to registration. With almost 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England, we cannot afford to lose any students along the way.’

Falling number of nursing applicants in England

The number of applicants in England in 2019-20 was 31% lower than in 2016-17, the final year of the old funding model before the bursary was scrapped, according to the RCN publication, Beyond the Bursary: Workforce Supply.

From September 2020, all nursing students in England became eligible for a £5,000 maintenance grant, with a further £3,000 for those taking harder-to-fill mental health or learning disability nursing places, or in certain parts of England.


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