Write off nurses’ loans after ten years, says report
Call for nurses’ student debt averaging £48,000 to be forgiven if they stay in the NHS
Nurses should have their student loans written off by the government if they work in the NHS for ten years, a new report recommends.
Newly registered nurses should have their student debt – an average of £48,000 – cut by 30% if they stay for three years, 70% for seven years and fully cleared after ten years, the Times Health Commission report suggests.
The loan forgiveness scheme could help address the high dropout rates for nurses, doctors, midwives and allied health professionals during and after training, with just three in five of nursing university places currently translating into full-time nurses in the NHS.
According to the commission, the Nuffield Trust has costed the suggested scheme at £230 million a year for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals. They say it would be highly affordable and would be partly offset by incoming changes to the student loan repayment system.
‘The high attrition rates, both during and after training, are increasing pressure on the NHS and driving up costs for the taxpayer,’ the report says.
Plan could encourage applications to healthcare courses and encourage staff to stay in NHS
It says the plan would encourage more applications to healthcare courses and encourage newly qualified staff to stay in the NHS, significantly reducing the use of expensive agency staff.
The commission, chaired by Times columnist Rachel Sylvester, heard evidence from more than 600 contributors, including nurses, doctors, midwives and social care staff.
The report proposes a ten-point list of recommendations to address issues relating to the workforce, patient safety, public health and waiting lists to improve the NHS and patient experience.
It says the NHS must become a ‘much better employer across the board’ to retain staff and attract people into healthcare professions.
Suggestions include more on-site childcare and flexible work contracts
Suggestions include employers providing affordable and healthy staff canteens, night transport or parking, a comfortable staff room, private spaces for clinicians to decompress, and somewhere to get a hot drink.
There should also be more on-site childcare and flexible work contracts to allow those with caring responsibilities to remain in the workforce, the report says.
King’s College London professor of nursing policy Anne Marie Rafferty said looking after nurses would be a ‘win-win all round.’
‘It’s about workload, it’s about well-being, it’s about creating a sense of being valued, enabling people to have their breaks. The evidence is cast iron: it’s better outcomes for patients, better outcomes for staff, lower burnout rates, higher retention. It’s a win-win all round.’
The RCN said that while it supported the idea of student loans being written off, tuition fees should also be abolished for nurses. General secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘Our evidence to the commission showed that sky-high tuition fees deter people from entering the profession.
‘Our health service will continue to fall over the precipice while there’s little incentive to become a nurse and those registered want to leave for better paid, less stressful jobs.’
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