NHS Bursaries are all I have been talking about for the last 24 hours, but up until 2 years ago I had no idea what they were or even that they existed. However, I now know just how important student bursaries are to those studying healthcare degrees, and as a student nurse, I have experienced this first hand.
Throughout all of the NHS, we all know that there have been staff shortages. Everyone has been struggling, there has not been enough money to supply the amount of staff needed. I have helped out on wards that have been two staff nurses down, so I completely understand why it needs more money if we are going to get the NHS back up to the standard of service we know it has been.
Why was it was decided that the extra money had to come from the pockets of student nurses, midwives, radiographers, physiotherapists etc? All of these healthcare students work 37.5 hours a week on 8-12 week placements without pay, all the while working as hard as those doing the same job and getting paid. But they do not complain, because they don’t do it for the money, they do it to care for others.
George Osborne’s decision to make healthcare students to pay for work is taking advantage of their caring natures.
We should be supporting them; their studies and long hours mean it’s incredibly difficult to take on extra paid work, like other students do.
Instead, Osborne is telling these students that in the future, not only will they have to continue working for free, but will finish with around £50,000 worth of debt that they will probably be paying off for the rest of their lives.
It’s just too much. Taking money from students to give to the NHS may be a quick fix for the headlines – but it will store up serious problems in the future, including an even greater shortage of nurses.
Through conversations with fellow students, I have discussed how they would not have been able to study nursing and other healthcare professions if it wasn’t for the NHS bursary. This is particularly true for mature students, of which there are a lot more in healthcare degrees than non-healthcare degrees. Many have left full time jobs to pursue a new career.
The NHS bursary is what helped these mature students cope with their loss of income. Someone who decides to become a nurse, no matter the age, needs to be supported in their decision, rather than be faced with a lifetime of debt that they will probably never be able to pay back.
More than one student I have talked to has decided to do a healthcare degree after doing another degree; many say they have had an epiphany. All of these students have told me that they would not have chosen to go back to university, as they would not want to add to their massive debt they already had from their first degree.
George Osborne has also told us that by getting rid of the bursary, there will no longer be a cap on the number of healthcare students studying. But if students can’t afford to study the degree, they’re not going to do it. And if the Universities were to take on more students, would they be able to maintain the level of education that they provided for smaller cohorts?
We can’t sacrifice quality for quantity. We need to maintain the crucial goal of training enough nurses, to a high enough standard, to give the care we need.
Louise Williamson is a 21 year old 2nd year nursing student studying in Liverpool dedicated to ensuring the healthcare profession stays as safe, and as fair as possible.
Follow her on Twitter @nurses4bursary.