NHS students overburdened by extra work and rising debt, says UNISON

Two thirds of NHS students have been forced to take work on top of their studies to supplement their income, according to a new report from UNISON published today (Friday). Healthcare students are lobbying their MPs at constituency surgeries today to press their case for adequate funding during their studies.

The proportion of nursing and other health students taking on extra jobs has risen from six in ten (61%) to more than two thirds (68%) in ten years from 2006. Nearly two thirds (64%) say working these extra hours is affecting their ability to study.

Almost half (47%) the students have considered leaving their course due to financial hardship.

The UNISON survey also shows that the overwhelming majority (86%) of students are in debt while they are studying to become nurses, midwives or allied healthcare professionals *.

Almost a fifth (17%) said they had taken out payday loans to get them through the week. A further one in ten (11%) had resorted to using food banks to feed themselves or their families.

The survey is published on the day that hundreds of nursing students across England go to their local MPs’ constituency offices to lobby against government plans to axe their student bursary.

UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said: “There appears to be no end to the misery heaped upon healthcare students by a government that seems driven by cutting costs.

“This report shows many healthcare students are already suffering with debt and working excess hours just to keep their heads above water. That’s before they take on student loans to pay course fees, which could see them amassing debts of £52,000 each.

“Next year things will get much worse as the bursary disappears and they have no option but to take out loans.

“Students want a salary that reflects their unpaid work on wards and which stops them worrying about running up huge debts or taking on other jobs that will prevent them from concentrating on their studies. Then they won’t have to work excessive hours or revert to relying on food banks to eat.

“It’s time ministers came up with a financial plan that works for students – and they could start by listening to students attending their constituency surgeries today.

“If the financial hardship being suffered by NHS students puts off those from ordinary backgrounds then patients will be the losers.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON’s report “In the red: student nurse debt” is available here.
– Healthcare students are lobbying MPs in their constituencies today (Friday) to tell them their experience of long hours working and coping with debt.
– * Allied healthcare professionals make up nearly 60% of the healthcare workforce and include dental hygienists, dietitians and occupational therapists.

Media contacts:
Alan Weaver T: 0207 121 5555 M: 07939 143310 E: a.weaver@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes T: 0207 121 5255 M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk