Axing NHS bursaries will saddle nurses with debt until retirement, warns UNISON

Nurses and other healthcare workers will be paying off their student loans almost until the day they retire UNISON is warning today (Saturday), as student nurses prepare to take part in protests against government plans to axe the NHS bursaries.

UNISON says that controversial government plans to axe the bursaries could leave trainees more than £50,000 in debt.

Campaigners are today (Saturday) taking part in UNISON-supported marches and rallies in London, Manchester and Newcastle in protest at the changes that were announced by the Chancellor in November.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “Axing the bursary will burden nurses, midwives and other health professionals with huge debts for much of their working lives. It’s wrong to replace bursaries with loans and force fees on students, many of whom are likely to be put off careers in nursing for fear of graduating with such huge debts.

“Trainees could end up tens of thousands of pounds in debt by the end of their course if the Chancellor’s ill-thought out proposals come into force. It’s madness when the health service is already struggling to fill so many vacancies. This is a political decision motivated by short-term financial savings, and will do nothing to solve the country’s nursing shortage.

“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.”

Today’s protests come ahead of a debate on Monday in Parliament over the plans, which are expected to come into effect in 2017.

MPs will discuss the measures at a Westminster Hall debate in response to an online petition signed by more than 150,000 people. Campaigners and unions are calling on ministers to keep the NHS bursary, which is means-tested and is awarded to students during their training.

Under the government’s proposals trainee health workers will have to pay the entire bill for their training. UNISON estimates that this will leave those who graduate in 2020 with a debt of £51,600.

Notes to editors:
The London march starts outside St Thomas’ Hospital at noon, then goes down York Road to Waterloo Bridge, across the Strand and down Whitehall. The march finishes outside Downing Street, where there will then be a number of speeches. Speakers include Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander MP, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, student nurses Marina Briggs, Danielle Tiplady and Helen Corry, and UNISON head of nursing Gail Adams.

The Newcastle rally begins at 1pm at Grey’s Monument in the city centre, and the Manchester rally at noon on Market Street (outside Boots).

For more information on the rallies/marches please contact: Danielle Tiplady 07760 770410 (London), Clare Williams 07801 743444 (Newcastle) and James Bull 07507 307700 (Manchester).

UNISON media contact:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E: