Listen at 8.10 tomorrow (Sat 9th Jan) to BBC Radio Humberside as we outline the disastrous axing of Bursaries for hard pressed medical trainees.
Hull based medical students and activists will join protesters who are taking to London’s streets this Saturday to demonstrate against Tory plans to cut student nursing bursaries in England and replace them with loans.
The plans, which were announced in last year’s Autumn Statement, will affect people studying a range of professions including nursing, speech and language therapy, radiology, occupational therapy, mental health nursing and midwifery. After August 2017 nursing courses will be fee paying, leaving students with more than £50,000 of debt if they undertake a three year degree.
This is despite student nurses working up to 37.5 hours a week on less than the minimum wage for half of their training and graduate nurses starting on an average salary of less than £23,000. The Conservatives claim that axing the £6,000-a-year bursaries will save £800m a year and drive desperately needed recruitment through increased enrolment on self-funded university courses.
But campaigners say the move is a cynical cost cutting exercise that will deter people from taking up a career in healthcare and leave the NHS ever more reliant on costly agency staff. During the 2014-15 financial year alone, locum staff cost the NHS £3.3bn.
Student mental health nurse and Unite member, Hollie Roblin, is one of 80,000 healthcare students currently supported by a bursary. The 27-year-old says that without the funding she wouldn’t have been able to undertake her course at Huddersfield University.
Hollie’s situation is similar to many other nursing students, who are on average 30-years-old. “I’m a mature student and I’ve done a previous degree in history, so I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. The bursary has enabled me to study and pay the rent,” Hollie said.
“Scrapping the bursary will hit mature students especially hard. People who have children, second degrees or financial pressures will be cut out. Half of our time is spent on placements working full time and we have to complete assignments during those periods as well. If you had to pay £9,000-a-year tuition fees for that what would be the incentive?”
Hollie is not the only student nurse to feel this way. A recent Unison survey of 2,000 trainee nurses found that 90 percent would not have taken up the vocation without the bursary.
Save Our NHS Hull and E. Yorkshire Secretary Theresa Vaughan, a former nurse says the Tory plan is simply a “cost-cutting exercise” hinged on heaping future healthcare professionals with an unfair debt.
“What we’re looking at is people paying for the privilege to work,” she said. “A significant proportion of nursing students are mature and these changes will particularly affect them. Quite clearly all it means is that we’ll have less people coming through and our reliance on overseas health professionals and agency staff will increase.”
MPs will debate the proposals on Monday January 11, following a petition which has been signed by 146,000 people. Before the debate a protest match will be held, which starts at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London at 12 noon this Saturday (January 9).