THE results of the ‘consultation’ launched by the Tories on the 7th April on the proposal to end NHS funded bursaries for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals and replace them with student loans were announced on Thursday by the Department of Health.
It was no surprise to learn that this sham of a consultation had resulted in confirmation that, from next year, bursaries would be ended and health students would be forced to take on student loans to pay for their tuition fees and to sustain them financially for the duration of their course.
A student who chooses to take a maximum tuition and maintenance loan for three years would graduate with a debt of between £47,712 and £59,106 according to the report. Once a nurse or midwife started to earn the princely salary of £21,000 a year they would be liable to repay this loan at a massive 9% of their wage. Repayments would stop if their salary dropped below this figure and any outstanding amount owed would be written off after 30 years!
When the then Tory chancellor, George Osborne, first announced his plans last year he made the ludicrous claim that financially penalising student nurses and midwives would miraculously lead to an increase in staffing, completely denying the obvious fact that running up a mountain of debt, and then paying it off out of a huge chunk of a low salary, would act as a deterrent to anyone contemplating nursing as a job.
As Janet Davies, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, said in a response to this: ”Trying to resolve the workforce problems of the past by putting the financial burden on the nurses of the future is unfair and risky.’
Unison head of health, Christina McAnea, accurately pointed out that: ‘Scrapping the student bursary will lead to higher spending on agency staff with too few recruits to plug existing gaps.’ The Tories have a plan and that is precisely to make the staff pay for the fact that they (the Tories) have deliberately cut funds to the NHS, along with every other public service, in order to pay off the massive national debt of over £1.5 trillion, run up bailing out the banks after the crash of 2008.
These cuts have been covered up by a stream of lies from the Tories. These lies were revealed this week in a damning report produced by the House of Commons health committee. This report into government funding of the NHS uncovered the fact that the Tory spending review in 2015 claimed that £8.4 billion would be put into the NHS by 2020.
This pledge turned out to be totally bogus. In fact only half this amount, £4.5 billion, was destined for the NHS – and most of this will be swallowed up by the debts incurred by almost every health trust in the country. The Tories attempted to hide this by using an accountancy trick.
This committee also found that government claims that it could find savings through improved ‘efficiency’ were ‘unrealistic’. The Tories are determined to bankrupt the NHS while at the same time imposing a dictatorship over the contracts for junior doctors, a prelude to imposing wage cutting contracts on all NHS staff, and making student nurses pay for the privilege of training for a low paid vital service.
The Tories ultimate aim is the total privatisation of the NHS. Leaving the hated Jeremy Hunt as health secretary to continue with his war on the NHS is the clearest possible confirmation that there will be no let up under May.
Leaders of unions like Unite must be instructed by the membership to stop describing these attacks and to start fighting them, for the sake of preserving the NHS for future generations, by not allowing the Tories to cut it and then privatise it.
The Unite union leaders and all of the NHS trade union chiefs must be forced to call out all their members in the health service in support of nurses and junior doctors who are in the forefront of the struggle, and to demand that the TUC also act by calling a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government and socialism.
This is the only possible way to defend the NHS.