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QNI demands greater clarity on effects of bursary proposals on post-registration nurses

The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) has added its voice to the campaign against the new Government funding proposals for student nurses.

In an open letter to the Department of Health, Dr Crystal Oldman, chief executive of The Queen’s Nursing Institute, highlights the gamble that the Government is taking by cutting funding for trainee nursing bursaries.

Similar to an earlier comment from the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), Oldman says the Government needs to “address the risk to the stability of the NHS” if it is wrong about the number of nurses expected to enrol in programmes after the cuts.

She says: “The lasting impact on the NHS will be immense if insufficient students enter training for several years running and the student pipeline is put at risk.”

The Government is proposing to remove the Health Education England (HEE) bursary for pre-registration nursing students to, in part, make the funding between nursing and medial students equal.

However, the letter argues that when a nursing student pays £9,000 per year in tuition it covers the majority of the real cost of the programme but for medical students £9,000 is only a portion of what a year’s tuition actually costs.

Furthermore, the Department of Health provides a universal non-means tested bursary for the final year of the programme to cover all tuition fees for medical students, which is not available to nursing students.

The letter adds that the impact of these proposals will be felt beyond pre-registration education and into post-registration specialist and advanced practice programmes.

HEE is planning to withdraw funding from district nursing, health visiting, school nursing, advanced practice, nurse practitioner and independent prescribing programmes from September 2017.

The letter says: “This will have a detrimental impact on patient safety and is contrary to the Government’s strategy of supporting more care being delivered closer to home as described in the Five Year Forward View.”

The RCN reported last month that the number of school nurses alone has already fallen by 10% since 2010 – leaving 2,700 school nurses to care for more than nine million pupils.

The letter concludes: “The Secretary of State for Health has an obligation to ensure the security of supply of the professionally qualified clinical workforce.

“The QNI questions how the Secretary of State will fulfil this obligation in the context of these reforms, particularly in relation to the nursing workforce in community and primary care settings.”