UNISON members urge MPs to save the NHS bursary

Cutting financial ‘lifeline’ to student nurses will leave them thousands of pounds in debt

Student nurses descended on Parliament today to tell MPs not to scrap the NHS bursary in England.

Around 80 student nurses, midwives, health care assistants and others attended the mass lobby organised by UNISON and other organisations.

The government plans to scrap the NHS bursary, which was originally set up to acknowledge the fact that nurses work for the NHS – for free – for half the time they’re studying.

Today, UNISON members told their MPs that it’s wrong to saddle nurses with what would amount to indvidual debt of £51,600.

The NHS bursary is a lifeline for nursing, midwifery and other health students. Nursing is considered a vocational course by law, with nurses making a vital contribution to the NHS while studying.

The government’s intention is to move from the bursary system – where no fees are charged and students are entitled to a combination of non-means tested bursary and a ‘reduced rate’ student loan – to full fees up to £9,000. This will also require a large maintenance loan.

The lobby was organised by UNISON, the British Dental Association, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing, and the National Union of Students.

“It’s a bad idea to scrap the NHS bursary,” said UNISON head of nursing Gail Adams, warning that the proposal would mean students graduating in 2020 with debts of more than £52,000 and a starting salary of £22,600.

“The bursary was designed and developed to act as an incentive to encourage prospective health care students to come into the profession,” said Ms Adams.

“But it also recognises that, while they’re training they’re working clinical shifts – they’re working late shifts, nights, and weekends, caring for our loved ones alongside other healthcare professionals.”