Vivienne Westwood joins protest against plans to scrap nursing bursary
Design legend Dame Vivienne Westwood joined RCN president Cecilia Anim and hundreds of nursing students protesting against government plans to cut the NHS bursary last weekend.
About 1,000 people marched from St Thomas’ Hospital to the Department of Health (DH) on 4 June.
Speaking at the rally on the steps of the DH, Dame Vivienne decried the government's 'rotten economic policy'.
It came as an RCN survey revealed two-thirds of currently qualified nurses would not have taken on a degree under the new proposals for student funding, which would see bursaries replaced by loans in 2017.
RCN president Cecilia Anim told the crowd it was fighting a just cause ‘for the future of our professions'.
Ms Anim said graduating with potential debts of up to £60,000 would deter many people from choosing to study nursing.
She urged the DH to work with the RCN to find a better solution and said the plans would stop future nurses from joining the profession and would negatively affect patients.
‘These plans will not help recruit and retain our future workforce,’ she said.
Ms Anim also shared the story of an RCN student committee member Kathryn who is struggling to balance studying with being a mother of two.
‘She is completing her degree, working long hours on her placements, looking after her children, and working part time to make ends meet,' said Ms Anim.
‘The bursary helps cover some of her bills – without it, she would never have had the chance to fulfil her dream and become a nurse.’
King’s College third-year nursing student Danielle Tiplady helped organise the march and has been campaigning on social media using the hashtag #BursaryorBust.
Ms Tiplady said: ‘This demonstrates how much support and energy is behind the Bursary or Bust [campaign] and we urge the government to reconsider their cuts to funding immediately.’
The DH insists the current model of health education funding is unsustainable and predicts the changes will allow up to 10,000 more nurses and midwives to train in the next four years.
The event was organised by the NHS Bursary Cuts Forum and it was supported by The People’s Assembly and unions including the RCN and Unison.