HALT ATTACK ON BURSARIES – RCN, BMA, Unison, Unite, RCM urge government

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LED by the RCN, a coalition of over 20 health care trade unions, charities and professional colleges yesterday called on the government to halt its ‘reckless’ plans to reform student funding for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions (AHPs).

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, experts warned: ‘The government’s proposals on student funding for nursing, midwifery and AHPs are an untested gamble with the future of the workforce that have not been properly risk assessed.

‘There is little explanation or consultation about what impact these funding changes will have on the plans of those who need to train for more advanced or specialist roles, such as health visitors or district nurses, at a time when their expertise is needed by patients more than ever.

‘The plans to switch to a system of loans threatens to reduce the supply of future nurses, midwives and AHPs at a time when patient demand is rising. While loans and tuition fees exist within other parts of higher education, it is important to recognise that those changes occurred after more than a decade of phased introduction.

‘The impact will be worse in health because there are no transition arrangements. There is no safety net for the NHS, these proposals will have a detrimental effect on the current and future NHS workforce, and also on the quality of patient care and safety provided in England.

‘We are deeply concerned that these plans could disproportionately affect more mature students, women, students with children and those who already have a degree, people who have always made up an important part of the NHS workforce.

‘Many of these people will be unwilling or unable to take on even more debt, and their vital contribution will be lost. Under these plans, the government has failed to allocate any funding for extra clinical placements and mentors, vital in giving students real, practical experience. Healthcare students can spend up to 50 per cent of their studies in clinical settings, so the quality of their education experience could be significantly affected.

‘These plans are a short-sighted attempt to solve a long-term and complicated problem. They have not been properly risk-assessed, and continuing with them as they stand would be nothing short of reckless.’

Among the organisations whose leaders signed the letter are the BMA, the NUS, The Royal College of Midwives, Unison and Unite.