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Nursing in Practice urges PM to reconsider student bursary decision in letter to The Times

by Carolyn Wickware
25 August 2016

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The UK’s leading nursing magazines have joined together in an effort to prompt a full review of the Government’s decision to scrap bursaries for student nurses.

In a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, featured in The Times today (subscription), rival magazines, Nursing in Practice, Nursing Times and Nursing Standard, have asked May to “think again” about forcing nursing students to take out a loan to cover their costs.

The last Government proposed to remove the Health Education England (HEE) bursary for pre-registration nursing students to, in part, make the funding between nursing and medial students equal.

However, the bursary reforms, which effect midwifery and allied health professional students as well, could see students amass up to £50,000 in debt with an annual salary after leaving university of just £22,000 on average.

The letter says: “Sir, As the editors of the UK’s leading rival nursing publications, we stand united in urging Theresa May to rethink the scrapping of student bursaries.

“As the Royal College of Nursing has made clear, the measure is an ‘untested gamble’ that could drastically affect the care that patients will receive. When she took office the new prime minister pledged to establish a fairer country that works for everyone and not just the privileged few.

“Last month the House of Lords debated the impact that Brexit would have on the NHS and social care, and Baroness Mary Watkins said: ‘The decision to leave the EU leaves us with serious uncertainty on the current and future supply of the lifeblood of our NHS, the private, voluntary and social care sectors—namely, the workforce.’

Hence, we appeal to the prime minister to intervene on this issue.”

Angela Sharda, deputy editor of Nursing in Practice, said: “In this letter, we have tried to explain why scrapping bursaries is a bad idea and what effect the decision will have on nurses.

“The nursing workforce is an important part of our NHS and it is a real shame that nursing bursaries have been cut – it will leave a negative impact on the industry.

“The decision to leave the EU has left uncertainty on the future of our NHS, but removing nurses’ bursaries will have a major impact on nurses financially.

“Usually, we stand as three rival publications but in this instance we have decided to stand together and address the matter to the Prime Minister.

“We hope that we will get a chance to speak with Theresa May to revaluate the Government’s decision on cutting bursaries.”

Jenni Middleton, editor of Nursing Times, and Graham Scott, editor of Nursing Standard, also signed the letter, which was sent to the prime minister earlier this month and can be read in full here.