Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health, was accused of “idiocy” and making student nurses his next target, in a debate in parliament yesterday.
“Not content with alienating one group of staff [junior doctors], the health secretary now has another target: student nurses,” Heidi Alexander (pictured), Labour’s health minister told the House of Commons.
This comes after it was revealed in the spending review last November that student nurses will have their tuition fee grants axed and replaced with loans, in order to offer more training places.
Alexander asked Hunt: “Why should a trainee nurse who spends half of their degree caring for patients not receive a bursary? If they are on a ward at 3 o’clock in the morning, why should they be expected to pay for the privilege?”
Similarly, Pat Glass, the Labour Party MP for North West Durham, deemed the policy “idiocy”.
“Was there any kind of discussion between the Department of Health, the home office and the chancellor before this idiocy was introduced?” she challenged.
Ben Gummer, Hunt’s under secretary of state for health, replied and was adamant that the bursary cuts will increase the number of student nurses.
“We can expand [the number of student nurses] significantly due to our reforms to nurse training funding” so that everyone who wants to become a nurse has the opportunity of becoming one, he said.
However just last month the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies, explained that hundreds of current nursing students and people considering becoming nurses had contacted the college “to share their concerns, frustrations and dismay”.