Nurses would not train without bursaries, Unison finds

27 Nov 15

Nine in ten nurses have said they would not have gone into the profession without the bursaries the government plans to scrap in 2017, a Unison survey has found.

A poll by the trade union found that 91% of the 2,000 nurses polled would not have applied for their nursing degree without access to the bursary. The union also raised concerns that qualified nurses could end up with scores of debt but only meagre wages to pay it off.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: “The NHS already has a shortage of nurses, so making it more expensive and difficult to train new ones makes no sense whatsoever. The government is being less than honest about these changes.”

He said new nurses will now have to take a loan to live on, a second for their tuition fees and potentially a third to pay for their compulsory placements in clinical settings. This could leave them in more than £50,000 worth of debt, but they could end up earning only £22,000.

Half of all student nurses already have children or other caring responsibilities and “hardly any” will have any spare cash for what “looks set up to be a course with exorbitant costs to do a job that pays very little”, Prentis said.

The Royal College of Nursing has also voiced concerns, as have current and student nurses themselves, taking to social media to complain about the changes.

Chancellor George Osborne, who announced the change in his Autumn Statement earlier this week, claims that, by substituting bursaries for loans and removing the cap on student nurse numbers, more people will be able to study to become nurses and receive more financial support than before.

The government said that universities had to turn down 37,000 nursing applicants in 2014 because of the cap and argues there is no shortage of people who want to be in the profession.

Others counter that the changes could deter people from pursuing a nursing career.

Prentis said: “It is very difficult to imagine who and why anyone would want to train as a nurse under those circumstances. George Osborne’s plan is likely to have serious consequences for the number of nurses in this country.”

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