Ministers Plan Backtrack On Bursary Slashes In An Attempt To Tackle Nursing Shortage
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Ministers Plan Backtrack On Bursary Slashes In An Attempt To Tackle Nursing Shortage

By Meka Beresford, Freelance News Editor 27 Sep 2019
Health

Ministers are planning to reintroduce bursaries for students studying nursing as an incentive to draw more people to the profession and prevent further nursing shortages in the NHS.

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne stopped bursaries for nursing students in 2015, replacing them with student loans. 

Bursaries were used to support nursing students through their studies and placements, with grants of up to £5,000. 

With a relentless rise in demand for care, today’s commitment would be progress towards filling these vacancies to ensure that services are safe and appropriately staffed.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers

Since stopping bursaries, applications to nursing courses have dropped significantly – with 10,000 fewer people applying each year. 

Meanwhile, shortages have increased and there are now an estimated 40,000 vacancies for nurses across the country. 

If bursary grants are reintroduced, only select groups will be able to access the fund, including mature students and students wanting to specialise in mental health and learning disabilities. This is because they are the two areas where shortages are most prevalent. 

Currently, you could wait up to 18 weeks to have a consultation with a mental health specialist.

An NHS ‘Staffing Crisis’

Garry Knight/Flickr

Image Credit: Garry Knight/Flickr

The consideration of better financial incentives for nurses comes after a report published by the Nuffield Trust, Health Foundation and King’s Fund which warned that nursing shortages could double and the shortfall of family doctors treble, without radical action.

The report estimated that £900 million is needed over the next five years to alleviate the shortage and help bring the numbers of healthcare workers up to a level where the NHS can continue to function. 

Dame Donna Kinnair, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, explained that, in order to return to the number of applications that nursing schools were seeing before the 2015 slash, £1 billion would need to be pumped into nursing education every year. This money would help students with tuition and living costs. 

The shortage of nurses, and low rate of applications for training, shows that the current financial offer for nursing students is inadequate.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers

“The commitment towards greater financial support for nursing students would be extremely welcome if implemented,” added Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents trusts.

“The shortage of nurses, and low rate of applications for training, shows that the current financial offer for nursing students is inadequate.

“With a relentless rise in demand for care, today’s commitment would be progress towards filling these vacancies to ensure that services are safe and appropriately staffed.”

Featured Image Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc./Blend Images/Corbis