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NHS bursary cuts are “foolish, petty and self-defeating” says UNISON

UNISON general secretary, Dave Prentis, said nursing could soon become a profession "only for those who can afford to study it"

Posted: 21 January 2016

The chancellor’s plans to axe the nursing bursary rank as one of the most “foolish, petty and self-defeating cuts” proposed by the government, said UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis at a special summit of student nurses in London.

The summit took place at UNISON’s headquarters in Euston, and brought together nursing, midwifery, and allied health professional students from across the NHS to plan the next steps in the campaign to defend the bursary.

Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, said: “The chronic shortage of nurses in this country is causing the NHS huge problems. Many highly stressed and overworked staff are considering alternative careers, the agency bill has gone through the roof, and many hospitals still don’t have enough nurses to go around.

“It would be sensible to assume that with too few staff on the wards, that the government would be busting a gut to recruit more student nurses.”

Mr Prentis continued by stressing the importance and the difficulty of the profession, stating that student nurses do not have the “traditional” student calendar.

He argues argued that this only adds to the difficulty student nurses face in working their way through university.

He said: “While other students can work part-time or during the holidays to try and pay their way through university, student nurses can’t – especially if they have children or other caring responsibilities.”

Mr Prentis continued by stressing the importance and the difficulty of the profession, stating that student nurses do not have the “traditional” student calendar.

He argued that this only adds to the difficulty student nurses face in working their way through university.

He said: “While other students can work part-time or during the holidays to try and pay their way through university, student nurses can’t – especially if they have children or other caring responsibilities.”

According to Prentice, George Osborne’s attempt to make the government’s spending cuts “add up” will place the future of the nursing profession, the NHS, and student’s’ livelihoods in jeopardy.

He said: “It’s terrifying to think that nursing could soon become a profession only for those who can afford to study it. For those with wealthy parents who can support them throughout their studies and beyond.

“The last thing this country should be doing – especially at a time when the NHS is under pressure and when we need more nurses – is to load students with huge debts,” Prentis told student nurses at the London summit.

He added: “Nursing shouldn’t be a route to a mountain of debt, that will take some nurses, midwives, radiographers and occupational therapists almost until they retire to pay off.”