Grant reversal not enough on its own to boost student nursing numbers

The government must abolish tuition fees

The decision to reintroduce the maintenance grant to student nurses is a good first step, but the government must now go further and abolish tuition fees, says UNISON.

The reintroduction of an annual maintenance grant only partly lifts the crippling financial burden on NHS students. Axing the bursary three years ago was a huge mistake and one that student nurses are still paying for, UNISON says.

Despite the rapidly growing demand for nurses – with record numbers of vacancies across the NHS – applications to study for nursing degrees are still lower than in 2016 when the bursary was removed.

Nearly one in four nursing students now either drop out or don’t complete their studies on time, with financial difficulties cited as the most common cause.

Specialist areas such as mental health and learning disability nursing, which attract more mature students, have been affected severely by staff shortages.

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “The government has signalled that the abolition of the nursing bursary was a disaster. The resulting drop in student numbers has completely undermined the future of the service.

“Tackling the nursing shortages will be no mean feat. Tuition fees for health students must be waived and grants geared to the cost of living so students are able to complete their training.”

Notes to editors
– UNISON has been campaigning for the reintroduction of financial support for NHS students, learn more here
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.

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