‘BURSARIES or bust! Jeremy bite the dust!’ chanted over a thousand student nurses as they marched to Downing Street on Saturday in their campaign to stop the Tory government from cutting the NHS student bursaries.
After the march from St Thomas’ Hospital on Westminster Bridge a rally outside the Department of Health in Whitehall heard NUS President Malia Bouattia say: ‘This government is forcing NHS students into poverty. This year with the NUS they have a fight on their hands and we will win. We will be mobilising like we’ve not seen in a generation and we will stand with you and fight.’
Also addressing the rally Celia Amin RCN President said: ‘Changing bursaries for loans is not fit for purpose.‘The government cannot have nursing on the cheap. Who wants to finish a degree with £60,000 debt. As demand for nursing increases we need more nurses but these plans will stop us recruiting to retain our future workforce.’
Two junior doctors addressed the rally; Lauren Ganavaghan said: As a doctor I see there is no question this will impact on patient safety. Let us not forget that Mid Staffs shows that without excellent nurses patients will die.’
Junior doctor Aislinn Macklin-Doherty told the rally: ‘A year ago I felt we hadn’t a voice, but in the last year we’ve gone through five successful, well supported strikes and the government has been forced to make concessions, but not nearly enough and the fight must continue.’
‘The Tories have stolen my future,’ former student nurse Carmen Rose-Locke told the rally. ‘I had to leave my course to have my baby, and now when I want to train to become a midwife my dreams have been shattered when I heard the bursaries are to end. We should have an increase in the bursaries not less. Midwives will bring babies into the world without having the time to bring their own up.’
Student nurse Helen Corry accused the government of contradicting itself by introducing a band 4 nursing associate role which will require on the job training that will use up hospital resources needed by degree student nurses.
Helen’s mum Anne addressed the rally, having three generations of her family working as nurses, she condemned the government and the cost of accommodation. She asked: ‘Are they going to put containers in hospital grounds with foodbanks at the end where patients can donate tins of soup?’
Student nurses came from all over the country, nurse specialist Kate Sheehan from Southend said: ‘I am proud to have been a mature nursing student and would never have been able to do it without the bursary.
‘I will fight with my last breath to stop the Tories from destroying the NHS. We want Unison to ballot for industrial action in defence of bursaries. We have been on the picket line with the junior doctors to support them and won’t let this government divide us.’