As a profession, nursing typically seems to get a rough ride in terms of
perception. Hard work for little monetary reward may often be what people first
think and the news that the government plan to scrap the NHS bursary has done
nothing to improve this. The removal of the bursary could have far reaching
consequences in the long term and in the short term the effects are already
being felt as research shows an increase in uptake of payday loans and visits to
food banks by trainee nurses.
Unions have stated that those due to begin their nursing training next year
could qualify with debts in the region of £52,000. A report by the Sunday
People has found that £5.2million has been paid in the last 3 years by way of
hardship grants to 6500 trainee nurses.
Measures such as turning to food banks and payday loans to help make ends meet
demonstrates how desperate the situation is for many trainee nurses. To turn to
such measures in order to help feed their families as well as maintain their
training is just one aspect of the overall picture. With the planned cuts to the
bursary the situation could become much bleaker longer term.
Research by the National Union of Students (NUS) has shown that NHS funded
students require greater levels of financial support than any others. In
addition to this the planned cuts to take place in September 2017 will not only
impact nurses but trainee midwives, dentists and doctors too which could
significantly limit those from lower income backgrounds from entering these
Turning to payday loans and food banks is not something to be ashamed of but for
nurses and others training in the NHS is likely to become more of a necessity in
order to meet the financial strains of this kind of study. The bursary was
designed to support those training and working in the NHS and to switch this to
a burdensome level of debt could see the numbers of trainees reduce dramatically
putting a further strain on the NHS overall.
Some argue that the loan alternative is simply not viable and that many will
still need to borrow from friends, family or other means in order to get by. NHS
students are often perceived as being given handouts but in reality many
students entering the NHS as trainees might have families to support and are not
wealthy students by any means.
Experts argue that the removal of the bursary could signal further destruction
of the NHS as there is already a shortfall in recruitment of nursing staff. With
a wave of nurses due to retire soon there is not enough being done to make sure
there isn’t a gap in nursing provision. People from the union Unison state
that there will be an even greater reliance in the future for additional
financial support from the likes of food banks and payday loans.
The nursing profession in particular has suffered greatly in the past with many
describing it as being in crisis. This latest development isn’t likely to
attract people to the NHS and many are being targeted by private providers
already. There are calls for the government to review the plans due to the
impact the bursary removal could have.