RCN: No fees! Restore bursaries! Cancel debt!

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Student nurses and midwives on the march demanding bursaries – the RCN has called to end all tuition fees and scrap student debt

‘FORCING student nurses to pay tuition fees has been a disaster,’ the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said yesterday, demanding that all student nurses’ debt is scrapped and their and student midwives’ bursaries are fully restored.

The RCN welcomes the introduction of £5,500 grants for nursing students but warns: ‘This is only the start of what is needed to address the workforce crisis.

‘Numbers applying fell dramatically at the moment frontline shortages were soaring. These fees are a barrier to safely staffing the NHS and care, and should be removed.’

More than 80 MPs, including Diane Abbott, Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips have also signed a letter calling on Tory health secretary Matt Hancock,to cancel the debt of student nurses and midwives.

Many student nurses and junior doctors have stepped in to go frontline in the fight to beat the coronavirus.

Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North, who wrote the letter, says cancelling the debt would send an ‘important signal’ to those starting their nursing careers that they are valued by the government.

The letter reads: ‘In future it would be a real sign of permanent change from the government if we could see that every nurse left their training and education without any debt, but right now student nurses are risking their own health to help care for people during the crisis in really difficult circumstances, managing unprecedented demand and often without the correct protective equipment.

‘Cancelling this debt, as a first step, for this group of hardworking nurses would be an important signal to those starting their careers during the crisis that they are valued, not just by the public and their patients, but by their government as well.’

Prof David Green, vice-chancellor of Worcester University, said the removal of the bursary was a ‘bad and mad policy’, and there is ‘no doubt’ it put thousands of mature students off training to be nurses and midwives.