Why medics turned out at the weekend.
Byline: BETH FARHAT
In the autumn statement, George Osborne announced the scrapping of the NHS bursary for new student nurses, midwives and allied health professions in England from 2017.
This NHS already has a shortage of nurses and the NHS bursary has given our NHS a lifeline to thrive with new talent, so making it more expensive and difficult to train new ones makes no sense. The move will mean nurses, midwives, radiographers, dietitians and podiatrists will be over PS50,000 in debt when they graduate.
A Unison survey conducted last year showed that nine in ten (91%) of student nurses would not have applied for the nursing degree without access to the bursary which the Government intends to scrap in 2017.
The Unison survey - of 2,000 student nurses - also shows 90% of respondents were in receipt of an NHS bursary. The union is also concerned over plans to introduce a new potentially costly system that means newly qualified nurses will end up earning just PS22,000 but will have debts of more than PS50,000.
This is an enormous sum for many in these professions. Loan repayments will mean a nurse, midwife or allied health professional will lose over PS900 in pay a year.
Under the current NHS bursary system, no fees are charged and students are entitled to a combination of a non-means tested bursary, a means-tested bursary and a 'reduced rate' student loan. This will be replaced with the standard undergraduate system, with fees of up to PS9,000 a year and a much larger student loan for maintenance.
Medics gathered across the country on January 9 to protest against these cuts, despite the inclement weather conditions; rallies in Newcastle and Middlesbrough were held so people could hear directly from politicians, nurses and doctors. The best asset of the NHS is its workforce. The best way to make the most of this asset is to invest in the future workforce. By scrapping the NHS bursary and uncoupling workforce planning from education commissioning the Government are taking a risk with the future of patient safety and care delivery, and exacerbating the current recruitment crisis.
Beth Farhat, Regional Secretary Northern TUC