A Career in the NHS – still an option for women?

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2017 National Women's Conference
6 February 2017

Conference notes figures released from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), on February 2nd 2017, showed applicants from England who had nursing as at least one of their course choices fell by 23%, from 43,800 in 2016 to 33,810 in 2017. Overall applicant numbers for nursing courses across the UK fell by 20% from 54,270 in January 2016 to 43,590 in January 2017.

Conference believes the decision made by the Government to remove the NHS Bursary for NHS Students within England was direct attack on a predominantly female profession as women make up almost 90% of the nursing workforce making this an equality issue. 99% of midwives and 79% of nurses are women and midwives work exclusively with women. Conference is dismayed that the Government has yet again failed to carry out an Equalities Impact Assessment before implementing this policy.

Conference further notes that a high number of nursing or midwifery students have children or are mature students, and therefore already have financial commitments, meaning they cannot afford the debt, and the loan system will put off those from low socio-economic backgrounds. 92% of students currently studying said they wouldn’t have been able to do the course if they hadn’t had access to the NHS bursary.

Conference understands that without bursaries, childcare or travel expenses, and with tuition fees and loans, nurses and midwives will accrue debts of around £60,000 over the span of their three year course. Nurses and midwives pay has decreased by around 10% since 2010; therefore, the likelihood is this debt will be with them for the length of their career.

The Government have railroaded this policy through stating it would encourage 10,000 additional training places despite overwhelming opposition from professional bodies, trade unions, employers and campaign groups. The evidence released so far shows applications down nearly a quarter and the Government must now accept they got this wrong and rethink this disastrous policy before any more damage is done.

Conference congratulates the work already done by UNISON in campaigning against the introduction of tuition fees and loans for healthcare students in England.

Conference, therefore, calls on the National Women’s Committee to:

• Work with UNISON’s Nursing and Midwifery Sector and the Health Service Group to promote and support the ongoing campaign against the removal of the NHS bursary and the introduction of tuition fees and loans for healthcare students in England

• Highlight the disproportionate impact this Government policy has on predominantly female professions

• Support the call for a healthcare students to either be salaried or receive a living bursary across all four countries within the UK