The government needs to restore nursing bursaries as a matter of urgency to plug the gap in the serious shortfall of nurses across the NHS, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Friday 26 January).
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, was commenting on today’s report by the Commons Health select committee which said that ministers need to closely the monitor the impact of the removal of nursing bursaries.
Unite head of health Sarah Carpenter said: “We feel that the foot needs to be put firmly on the accelerator in addressing the shortages of nurses, health visitors and community nurses.
“One of the best ways would be to immediately reintroduce bursaries for those wishing to train as the nurses of tomorrow.
“Abolishing the bursaries last summer was a big mistake and we now have a situation where student nurses face the prospect of chalking up debts of £50,000 during their three-year course – that’s short-sighted and blinkered thinking by the government.”
Unite lead professional officer for regulation Jane Beach, who gave evidence to the committee, said: “The report could have gone further in its recommendations on bursaries.
“It acknowledges, for example, the impact of removing bursaries, but we don't have the luxury of waiting another year to know how this will play out. The evidence of nursing shortages from NHS Digital is already stark and alarming.
“Nursing bursaries were the financial bedrock that enabled women and men, who may not have had the necessary financial resources or came from disadvantaged backgrounds, to embark on the training so that they could contribute to a vibrant and diverse profession.
“Their reintroduction should be a priority for health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt.”
Notes to editors:
NHS Digital’s quarterly update detailing vacancy rates for a range of health professionals showed that the number of unfilled advertised nursing and midwifery posts in England reached 34,260 in the three months to September last year– the highest level since records began.
Unite embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA) and the Mental Health Nurses Association (MHNA).
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.