Note: All the answers to these questions are direct quotes from nurses who have spoken out about their experiences online – links to the relevant site are on their names – or are quotes from my friend the lovely Lady Kitty, who is a nurse.
It seems these days that the government is waging war on the NHS. Jeremy
Cunt Hunt was given the job of running it despite having written a whole book on how he wanted to dismantle it pre-election. You’ve probably read a lot about the junior doctors contracts – if you haven’t then I wrote a blog about it myself – and how he unilaterally imposed a contract on them that is unsafe, unfair and will drive many talented doctors out of the country. But you probably haven’t heard much about the damage he is doing to nursing by removing the current bursary scheme and replacing it with traditional student fees. Why? Well, the BMA has a much better PR machine it seems – they succeeded in getting two thirds of the country on side. The RCN seems reluctant to take this public. Why that is, I can’t say, but how about we ask the nurses themselves just what effect the plans are having.
So what exactly is the government doing that is so bad?
The bursary currently supports over 80,000 students studying nursing, midwifery, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, podiatry and radiography. Students don’t pay tuition fees and receive a mixture of a non-means tested bursary, a means-tested bursary and a reduced rate student loan to help with living costs. As of 2017 the government will be axing the bursary, replacing it with loans in England to cover £9,000 tuition fees and maintenance costs. – Helen
You work in the hospital during your degree, don’t you get paid for that?
Well no, student nurses do not receive a salary to work on their placements, which amounts to a minimum of 2300 hours over 3 years. – Lady Kitty
Surely you can just get a loan?
The NMC Registration and union membership costs are already daunting enough for newly qualified nurses, and now the government wants to add repayment of more student loan onto that too. Why would people want to pay to do a degree where they have to WORK 37.5 hours a week, whilst other students study mere 10 hours a week? – Laura
What about a part time job like most students?
Nursing courses are intense; 37.5 hours a week on placement, plus lectures and coursework taking up spare time…Nursing students differ from other university students; whereas a politics student may only have 8 hour of lectures a week we had 9-5 uni days and placements on top. We didn’t have 3 months off in the summer to work. We worked hard and all our time was devoted to our profession. – Emily
I see. How will this impact the number of nurses we see?
I love my job, I loved it from the start. Would I have considered it without the bursary? I don’t think I would have had the courage to leave the safe job that I had, knowingly incurring £30,000+ of debt, and working full time for nothing. Would anyone do this? Why should anyone do this? A large percentage of student nurses are mature students with families, as I was. Without the bursary we risk losing thousands of potential nurses. This can only make the staffing crisis worse. It lacks logic and is totally unfair to our incredibly hard working nurses in training. – Jack
But surely the ones already qualified will stay?
Because of a government failing to recognise it is crippling dedicated NHS staff through long hours, staff being unable to take their breaks as their conscience won’t let them as it would leave patients unsafe and failure to pay nurses in line with the rising cost of living. A worrying amount of my colleagues have been off with stress and many are looking into work overseas…If we are tired and broken how are we supposed to do what we came into nursing for. Care for and keep patients safe? – Rowena
That sounds bad. But this only affects mature students, right? So we will still get lots of young fresh faces coming in?
I have been a nurse for 37 years and have a daughter who is studying A levels. She has discussed this with her friends and they all feel that the bursary changes will be a barrier and most probably dissuade them from applying for nursing . In addition I work with student nurses and in discussion on this topic the few I have asked have all stated they would have great difficulty in choosing nursing because of not being able to get a part time job and as the salary is less than many other graduates this would make them consider again. – Katie
Also, it is important that we keep nursing accessible to people from a range of cultures and with different life experiences. Patients need to be able to relate to their nurse, just as much as nurses need to be able to relate to patients. – Lady Kitty
So what you’re saying is a truly effective nursing body should reflect the people they serve? Who would have thunk it!
I believe cutting the bursary would leave diversity lacking in nursing – Rowena
Will you now bar the working classes, particularly women, from every avenue that will ultimately improve their lives and so their communities, and rob society of this great potential? – Carol
How will this crisis effect the future of the NHS (and the people they serve)?
The crippling nursing shortages are damaging enough without the prospect of fewer nurses replacing those who have retired. Cutting the bursaries means sacrificing the NHS as we know it – Holly
OK, well you’ve convinced me, what now?
Write to your MP giving your opinion and ask them to raise it in the commons, write your own blog about it, tell everyone you know about it, write to Jeremy
Cunt Hunt (never get that right first time) or David Cameron themselves. If you’re a nurse get in touch with the RCN to organise a protest or prompt them to take action. Silence is the only wrong action. – Me (yes I answered my own question, no it’s not weird)
Thanks! This was helpful. On behalf of spoonies everywhere, thank you so much for your hard work. Every time we go into hospital we rely on you for so much: regular medication, care we can’t perform ourselves, a shoulder to cry on. Most of us will have felt the budget tightening around you – felt the waits get longer, see less of you on the ward, hear you apologize for not having time to do something – but we know that you are doing the best with a terrible situation and we appreciate it. Keep up the good work (as long as the government lets you).