Scrapping nurses’ bursary saddles students with debt – and leaves the NHS short-staffed

A report from Unison says replacing bursaries with student loans will cost more than it saves


A new report has warned ‘disastrous’ plans to make student nurses and midwives pay for their courses could leave the NHS short of new staff.

Government plans to scrap bursaries and shift the cost onto students will saddle nurses will massive debt, costing them an estimated 71 per cent more than they currently spend, said the report by London Economics.

It adds that while George Osborne has justified the changes in his spending review as necessary to save money, they could cost more in the long run.

Universities could lose money as fewer people take these courses, the government could lose money as low-paid nurses cannot afford to pay back all their debts, and the NHS will have to pay for agency staff to plug the gap when students are put off by massive fees.

Christina McAnea, Head of Health at Unison, which commissioned the report along with the National Union of Students, said:

‘The government claims there are huge savings to be made from scrapping the bursary, but this analysis suggests the reverse is true.

The prospect of graduating with huge debts is understandably going to put many people off a career in the NHS – especially when they realise they may never earn enough during their working lives to pay off the loan entirely.’

She continued:

‘The NHS already has too few nurses. Scrapping the bursary will make an already difficult situation much worse. With too few staff on the wards, the impact on patient safety could well be disastrous.’

Ms McAnea adds that the NHS will need to spend more on agency staff to make up the difference. Data released last week shows the NHS overspent on agency and contract staff by £1.4 billion in 2015-16.

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