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Student Nursing Bursary Cuts

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It has recently been announced that Student Nurses could be set to receive large bursary cuts to be replaced by a more conventional student loan system but how could this affect the Healthcare sector?

Putting a stop to nursing bursaries, according to George Osbourne, could save the UK economy roughly £800 million a year. At first glance this would appear to be a good saving that would allow the government to reinvest this large sum of money into better facilities within the NHS or better pay and conditions for healthcare staff. There is however a risk which comes along with these changes; could this have a direct effect on NHS recruitment? With current pressures on the NHS to ensure safer staffing levels and the additional pressure of controlling budgets is this the right time to be removing an incentive for nurses to enrol in nursing degrees? Many trusts are already recruiting from overseas in an attempt to overcome a shortfall of nursing staff and many permanent vacancies within the NHS go unfilled, especially in rural areas.

The Department of Health currently spends £826m a year to help fund about 60,000 student nurses in England and state that they simply no longer have the funds to continue such investment; however large number of NHS hospitals continue to work in dangerously understaffed conditions, putting both nurses and patients at risk. Further cuts could deter people from pursuing a career in nursing which would in turn aggravate the problem of understaffing. The November 2015 spending review stated that there would be a £4 trillion investment over the next 5 years in government priorities such as the NHS, defence and housing; it remains to be seen if this money will be spent in the right way to increase the number of healthcare staff available to the NHS.

Janet Davis, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing has said that the desperate need to “play catch up” and hire nurses now wouldn’t have happened if the government “hadn’t cut staffing levels and slashed student nurse places in the past,” branding the policy “unjust”.

Although the government argue that these cuts will help to save money, it could be argued that many student nurses will never actually be able to fully pay back these large loans. Unison, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives are supporting protesters campaigns, and are planning more action, and more campaigning.

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