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Government should review effect of bursary proposals on second degree students, say MPs

The Health Select Committee has recommended the Government review the impact of removing bursaries on students taking it as a second degree.

In its latest report, Impact of spending review on health and social care, MPs agreed, after hearing concerns from the Royal College of Nursing and the Health Foundation, the Government should look into a “transitional approach to support this section of the future workforce”.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “The Committee is right to recognise the need to properly value and remunerate the contribution of the NHS’ workforce.

“It’s also good to see the Committee listening to our evidence on proposed changes to student nurse funding and urging the Government to carry out a proper review of transitional arrangements before any change is implemented.”

But she warned: “Unless the Government finally gets to grips with the tremendous financial pressures facing the NHS, then no initiative or plan will ever fully get off the ground and the NHS will lurch from crisis to crisis.

“Long term, sustained investment is the only way to ensure our health and care system can cope with the challenges ahead.”

The report covered a wide range of issues including funding for parity of esteem for mental health for which MPs called for “clear, verifiable evidence that the additional funding for mental health is being delivered to the frontline”.

The committee members also said they would return to the issue and look for “evidence of sustainable progress towards the culture change” across the NHS.

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, the committee chair, said: “We welcome the plans for additional funding for mental health but there is a danger that this could get sucked into deficits in the acute sector particularly as there is a lack of accurate data on mental health spending.

“We expect to see clear, verifiable evidence that the additional funding promised for mental health is being delivered to the front line if we are to make progress towards parity of esteem."

More widely, the committee found that the Government had not been honest about the amount of additional funding being given to the NHS.

Last year’s spending review announced that the health service would receive an additional £8.4 billion by 2020/21.

However, while previous spending reviews define health spending as the whole of the Department of Health’s budget, the 2015 review defines it in terms of NHS England’s budget. This excludes spending on public health, education and training.

The committee found that, using the original definitions; total health spending will only increase by £4.5bn by 2021.