The Department of Health has said cuts to nursing bursaries will give students 25% more financial support for living costs, in a response to Nursing in Practice’s letter to the Prime Minister last month.
In the letter sent to the Prime Minister, editors from Nursing in Practice, Nursing Times and Nursing Standard held Teresa May to account on her promise “to establish a fairer country that works for everyone and not just the ‘privileged few’.”
In response, Philip Dunne, minister of state for health, said: “Based on the experience of the higher education system generally, the combination of an increase of typically around 25 per cent or more in support for living costs and bringing theses students under the access agreement system will support widening participation from disadvantaged groups.”
The three-page letter added that the creation of up to 10,000 more university training places over this Parliament will mean new nurses will not have to be hired from overseas or from “expensive agencies”, which cost the NHS £3.7 billion in 2015/16.
By forcing nursing students to take out a loan, the Government argues in the letter that the number of students trained will no longer be restricted by Government finances and will instead “open up opportunities for the 37,000 nursing applicants universities were forced to turn down in 2014”.
Dunne described this decision as “more sustainable”, by leaving it up to the universities to recruit more students and “securing the future supply of nurses to the NHS”.
The bursary reforms, which effect midwifery and allied health professional students as well, could see students amass up to £50,000 in debt with an annual salary after leaving university of just £22,000 on average.
The letter addressed the loan repayment, which it says amounts to 9% of income once the person is earning more than £21,000 adding that the same is required of teaching graduates, “a profession with comparable earnings to healthcare professionals”.
The letter adds that the department is working with Health Education England to address the shortage of nurses “through a combination of increased training places, encouraging nurses to return to practice, and improving retention of experienced nurses in the workforce”.