Axing student bursaries will deter many from careers in nursing

Hundreds of student nurses are expected at a UNISON-supported protest outside the Department of Health later today (Wednesday) against government plans to axe the NHS bursary for nursing degrees.

In last week’s spending review, the Chancellor announced that next September would be the last time anyone in England could apply for the bursary.

Organised by student nurses, the two-hour protest starts at 2pm outside Richmond House on Whitehall. They are campaigning to save the bursary that helps around 15,000 students a year become nurses.

During the afternoon, the trainee nurses aim to hand in a letter to Jeremy Hunt urging the government to think again about replacing the bursary with loans and tuition fees.

From September 2017, any student applying for a nursing degree will have to take out a loan to cover their tuition fees.

UNISON has calculated that a student graduating in 2020 could leave with debts over £50,000, yet be starting out in the workplace on a salary under £23,000.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “There’s already a desperate shortage of nurses. Scrapping the NHS bursary the year after next will simply make an already bad situation much worse.

“Nursing trainees tend to be older than other students, and may already have debt to pay off from a first degree. They’re also more likely to have families, and are likely to balk at the prospect of going even further into the red, and taking on yet more loans that could take 30 years or more to pay off.

“Many people will be forced to take second and third jobs, compromising their studies and health. Or they’ll be priced out of a career in nursing completely, especially if their parents don’t have the cash to subsidise them. The losers will be the NHS and patients.”

Save Our NHS Bursaries protest organiser Danielle Tiplady said: “Axing the bursary means that many people from poorer backgrounds won’t be able to afford to fulfil their dreams of training as nurses, physiotherapists, or midwives. That saddens me immensely.

“I am very fortunate to be studying nursing, but I wouldn’t be here without the NHS bursary. Everyone should have the same chance to benefit from a wonderful education, and amazing opportunities and experiences. If the government persists in snatching the bursary, many people will be put off a career in nursing. Ministers should be trying to find ways of attracting new nursing recruits, not putting up barriers to deter them.”

Notes to editors:

Student nurses don’t currently pay tuition fees, and receive a means tested bursary during their training. As part of their studies, they must do at least 4,600 hours while studying, at least half of which are in practice. Unlike most students, nursing trainees work full-time hours in placement for around half the year, and spend the rest of the time in lectures, without a summer holiday, or Easter break.

The protest organisers have set up a Facebook page about tomorrow’s demonstration at the Department of Health

Kat Webb, a student nurse at Staffordshire University, is campaigning to save the bursaries via a parliamentary petition that already has almost 136,000 signatures.

UNISON media contacts:

Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E: