During April 2016 Hertfordshire Students’ Union launched our Bursary or Bust campaign regarding the proposed changes to the NHS. At Hertfordshire Students’ Union, we agreed that while there may be a benefit in recruiting and training thousands of more nurses, we also had concerns over the debt this would leave students with, the demand to work unsociable hours and a the lack of uptake on the course.
However, despite our attemps (along with thousands other students across the country) to oppose these changes, the government has this summer confirmed that bursaries for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will be scrapped as of next academic year.
According to the Department of Health, replacing bursaries with loans would free up around £800m a year to create additional nursing roles to help more students enter the profession. However, I have spent the past six months arguing that scrapping the bursaries will lead to graduates having the burden of debt in excess of £50,000, which may discourage students from entering the profession. Likewise, there will also be students working 2300 hours a year, with often unsociable hours, without pay. This is unfair and unjust.
As you may remember, last year I spent a considerable amount of time on the Bursary or Bust campaign. I started by consulting with our current nursing students, including our newly elected School Officer for Health and Social Work. We then launched a post card campaign, in which we sent postcards to MP’s on behalf of students to raise concerns regarding the proposal. Alongside this, we attended the national lobby day on May 25th where thousands of Nursing Students’ from across the UK gathered to discuss the implications of scrapping NHS Bursaries.
Finally, we met with Grant Shapps MP to discuss our concerns. This was a positive meeting where he encouraged us to respond to the consultation and agreed to write a letter to Jo Johnson MP about the implications and effects this would have on our students.
Despite our efforts, the Government have gone ahead and implemented the changes to funding for nurses , midwives and allied health professionals.
In light of this, I have successfully lobbied the University to absorb certain additional course costs (such as uniforms and DBS checks) to reduce the costs of studying nursing or midwifery. I will continue to lobby the University to ensure the impact of these changes to students is minimal.
So what’s next?
The University of Hertfordshire are yet to publish their position on this matter. We have therefore requested that the University publish their response and position in relation to these changes. I have met with the Dean of Health and Social Work School who has assured us that they are working hard to ensure students get a good deal out of these changes.
We are also currently waiting for part two of the Governments consultation. Once this has been released, I will be able to provide you with more information on what this means for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
We will continue to fight to minimise the impact this has on our students studying nursing, midwifery and other allied health professional courses.
If you have questions, queries or concerns about what this means for you, or if you want to get involved in the campaign, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.