Unite, the UK’s biggest union, is today (Wednesday 4 May) calling on the government to scrap plans to replace NHS bursaries with loans amid warnings that it will cause a workforce crisis and turmoil within the NHS.
Labour MPs will debate the Tories' proposed plan to replace NHS bursaries with loans from August 2017 making courses like nursing, speech and language therapy and midwifery fee paying.
This will leave students with more than £50,000 worth of debt if they undertake a three year degree, which Unite believes will deter many potential applicants from pursuing a career within the NHS.
This is despite student nurses working up to 37.5 hours a week on less than the minimum wage for half of their training, and graduate nurses starting on an average salary of less than £23,000.
Colenzo Jarret-Thorpe Unite national officer for health said:
“This is a cynical cost cutting exercise that will leave the NHS ever more reliant on costly agency staff. During the 2014-15 financial year alone, locum staff cost the NHS £3.3 billion.
“Abolishing NHS student bursaries will stoke up a future NHS workforce crisis as the prospects of soaring debt will deter many to pursue a career in public service and be a barrier for mature students and those from disadvantage backgrounds entering health professions. The government needs to listen to widespread concerns and ditch this policy now. Unite members will be lobbying parliament on 25 May with health students and our sister unions.”
Danielle Tiplady, a Unite member and student nurse said: “[Shadow health secretary] Heidi Alexander calling an opposition debate on the bursary today shows the continuing concern around the removal of the NHS bursary to the future workforce of our healthcare service. I hope that today the House of Commons votes to restore the bursary as it is not a cost but an investment in the health and wellbeing of us all. Please MPs support your nurses, midwives and associated healthcare professionals, do not let their dreams and our NHS be shattered.”
Unite represents over 100,000 health care workers and there are currently 80,000 healthcare students supported by an NHS bursary.
Unite, along with other health unions is coordinating a lobby of parliament against the abolition of NHS bursaries on Wednesday 25 May with thousands of student healthcare members coming to drum up support for the campaign from their MPs.
For more information please contact Unite campaigns officer Jody Whitehill on 020 3371 2070 / 07768 693956 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
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.