Student Funding & the NHS Bursary

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2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
11 December 2015

The decision by George Osbourne in the comprehensive spending review to scrap the NHS Bursary is short sighted and will have serious implications for the future of our NHS workforce. The shortage we currently have of nurses and midwives is as a direct result of the previous Government’s decision to slash pre registration training in 2010. The consequences of this decision have been felt throughout the service and led directly to an increase in bank and agency spend, the impact of this has done little if anything to improve finances within the NHS.

The decision to scrap the bursary and force students to pay tuition fees in England from 2017 will have a dramatic impact on their education experience and quality of life as they continue to incur further debt with no chance of ever being able to pay it off.

UNISON’s immediate reaction to this is to be commended. The speed with which a campaign was developed and implemented shows the true strength of our union.

However whilst scrapping the bursary is inappropriate we must also acknowledge that the current system hardly supports NHS students. We must heighten our pay not poverty campaign, making the case that well valued and rewarded students leads to a better graduated and a more sustainable workforce.

UNISON has serious concerns over the proposal and the impact it may have on widening participation, in particular as the average age of a student nurse is 28 and 50% of them have children. Those who aspire to enter nursing, occupational therapy, operating department practitioner or paramedic programs will in effect be priced out of the market.

It is essential that UNISON’s campaign on this key issue is maintained, including full use of social media and engagement with our students. We must also isolate the Government in this decision by ensuring health departments in devolved nations do not follow suit.

Conference calls on the SGE to:

1)Ensure regions are communicating and networking with our student members, including recruitment and organising initiatives. The ‘Save the NHS Bursary’ campaign provides a real opportunity to encourage members to become more active.

2)Use all communication resources we can to communicate what the impact of this decision might be and the consequences of it

3)Seek government discussions with a view to overturning the decision.