STUDENT nurses and midwives are furious that under new proposals to scrap bursaries, they could potentially be burdened with £65,000 worth of debt for a three-year degree.
In his Autumn Statement on Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed in his spending review that funding for midwifery and nursing education will now go through a system of loans rather than bursaries. Royal College of Midwives director for policy, employment relations and communications Jon Skewes said: ‘Our understanding is student midwives and nurses will now also be saddled with seeking a loan for both their student support and tuition fees.
‘The combined cost could potentially burden student midwives with a debt of £65,000 for a three-year degree programme. These plans are appalling and will deter great future midwives that the NHS so badly needs. Many midwives already make huge personal and financial sacrifices and now the burden of future debt will exclude many fantastic potential midwives.
‘Women with children and those who already have a first degree will be particularly hit hard; many of these women already make up a large proportion of our current midwifery student base. The implications of the announcement by George Osborne are wide reaching and extremely damaging for a profession that is already overworked and understaffed. The government is aware of the existing shortage of midwives in England and should be doing everything they can to make the profession more attractive rather than deterring hardworking, talented women and men from a career they are so committed to and an NHS service that so desperately needs them.’
Student midwife Kirsty, from Anglia Ruskin University, said that she sometimes has to rely on her family to help supplement her income to be able to meet unexpected bills. ‘Without the small amount of my monthly bursary payment of £390 we would not be able to balance rent, food, bills, car, petrol and childcare costs. Due to the academic workload and the unpredictable and unsocial hours of placement, there is no way to be able to supplement my family income with a part-time job,’ she added.
Fellow student Sarah, who is training in London said that if the funding for training is cut, women like her with previous degrees will be excluded from midwifery. In a message to members, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘Those who made this decision simply don’t understand that nursing is not like other degrees.
‘They don’t understand that 50% of your course time is dedicated to unpaid clinical practice, caring for real people and their families. They haven’t grasped that your academic year is longer, which means there are fewer opportunities to earn money between terms. Saddling you with a student loan, when many of you already have one from a previous degree, will put huge financial pressures on all future nurses. It is unfair and unconsidered.’
She added: ‘I understand that you are angry, and that is reflected in the comments we have received on social media. We want to capture this feeling and send a clear message to the government. So please tell us how important your student bursary is. We will use the evidence you give us in our negotiations with government.’