Today I have been out supporting the campaign against the removal of student nurse bursaries.
The Government announced in last year’s Autumn Statement that it will abolish student bursaries for NHS students from September 2017.
This will affect people studying a range of professions including nursing, speech and language therapy, health visitors, occupational therapy, mental health nursing, midwives, dietetics, and others like, paramedics and operating department practitioners..., whose training is moving towards a graduate qualification.
These changes would see students burdened with at least £51,600 of debt, plus interest and any overdraft and commercial debt.
This is an enormous sum for many in these professions: for example, the current starting salary for a nurse is £22,799. Loan repayments will mean a nurse, midwife or allied health professional will lose over £900 a year.
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.
There is no evidence to justify these claims however and there is a real risk that students will be put off a career in healthcare and leave the NHS ever more reliant on costly agency staff.
Those students who do take on the risk will essentially be paying 'themselves' to work on wards when doing thier full time work placements which take up at least half of the year.
Such placements also mean that they cannot secure a part time job outside of studies otherwise patient safety could be put at risk by the student working too many hours.
Is this really fair for patients or nurses?