A consultation into controversial plans to scrap nursing bursaries and replace them with student loans has been launched.
The government hopes to create 10,000 more training places at universities by 2020 to create “a larger pool of higher qualified home-grown staff” by changing the funding for student nurses, midwives and student studying for other healthcare degrees.
It is also planning to give students a 25% boost to cover living costs.
It said the changes should attract more disadvantaged people into the professions.
Launching the consultation Ben Gummer, the Secretary of State for Care Quality said the anticipated boost in student numbers “will mean that NHS employers, as well as those in the independent and care sectors, will have a larger pool of highly qualified home-grown staff available. In turn, universities will be able to accept more applicants who get the right grades than they do currently. “
He said as the number of UK trained students increase the NHS could reduce its reliance on expensive agency and overseas staff.
Gummer added: “Changes like this are never easy but we strongly believe that these policies will be good for students, good for patients, good for universities and good for our NHS.”
He said there were not enough nurses or midwives coming through the current university system because places under the current bursary system have to be limited by NHS workforce planning requirements.
It said that two thirds of people who currently apply to become a nurse do not get a place.
The proposed changes would come into force in August next year.
New students would not get their studies funded by Health Education England or a bursary from NHS Business Services Authority. Instead they will be offered funding through the student loans (Student Standard Spending system) provided by the Student Loans Company.
Graduates currently start repaying the loan when they earn £21,000 or more.
Any money they still owe after 30 years is written off.
Newly qualified nurses earning £21,700 will pay £5.25 a month.
Existing students will not be affected by the change.
The Royal College of Nursing staged a march through Westminster to Downing Street in January as parliament debated a petition against the scrapping of bursaries which was signed by more than 150,000 people.
The Royal College of Midwifery said student midwives starting their degrees in 2017 could potentially face graduating with debts of £60,000.
The consultation ends on June 30.
Click here to view the consultation