In the 2015 Spending Review changes were announced that would seriously affect future NHS students and cause a larger impact on the NHS workforce.
Cuts to the bursary mean future students would have to take out loans for tuition fees and living expenses.
Currently the government funds tuition fees for nurses, midwives and AHPs. Students are also eligible to apply for a means tested bursary which ranges from £1,000 to £5,000 a year.
The unique thing about NHS students is that courses are divided 50/50 between lectures and clinical practice, and term times are a lot longer than ‘traditional’ degrees. This means that over the 2/3 years of a nursing degree students will spend 2,300 hours in a clinical placement, working. Shifts are often long (7.30am-8pm) and may be over the weekend, bank holidays or during the night.
But what is the government’s rationale behind these cuts?
- With the bursary there is a cap on the number of people who can study to become a nurse/midwife/AHP. The government claims that by cutting the bursary it will open up many more places at Universities.
How will cutting financial aid attract higher numbers of applicants?
- The government claims that 2/3 applicants are being turned away due to current system.
Nursing and midwifery courses are not unlike other ‘traditional’ degrees whereby the demand outweighs the supply. Furthermore the government assumes that every applicant is suitable for nursing or midwifery.
- To address current shortages of registered staff by training more.
While it is unlikely that a complete cut in funding will increase student numbers, the government is failing to address the core of the problem: retaining staff. By moving to a loan system the government has effectively given future registered nurses a £900/year pay cut. In the long term it is hard to imagine how nurses/midwives/AHPs will afford to stay in the profession they chose.