Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for the nursing education bursary to be reinstated following fears that scrapping it will discourage people from applying to nursing courses.
Corbyn told Parliament, ‘We oppose the Tory cuts in the NHS which involves scrapping of nurses’ bursaries because we fear it would discourage people from entering training’ during Prime Minister’s Questions on 22 February.
‘[The prime minister’s] government said removing funding for nurses bursaries would create an extra 10,000 training places in this parliament. Has this target been met?’ he asked Theresa May.
The Department of Health (DH) declined to comment on the questions raised about the education bursaries during the debate.
£1.3bn more for NHS
In response to Corbyn’s question, May said: ‘There are 10,000 more training places available for nurses in the NHS’.
‘But the Rt Hon gentleman talks about the amount of money that is being spent on the National Health Service – it is this Conservative government that is putting the extra funding into the NHS and I remind the Rt Hon gentleman that we are spending £1.3bn more this year than Labour planned to do if they won the election.’
Corbyn replied by saying that ‘in reality’, 10,000 fewer places have been filled for nursing degrees this year because there are fewer applications. ‘There is a problem being built up for the future,’ he stressed.
Workforce in crisis
Corbyn continued: ‘The Royal College of Nursing warned that the nursing workforce is in crisis. If fewer nurses graduate in 2020 if will exacerbate what is already an unsustainable situation. Will the Prime Minister at least commit herself to reinstating the nurses’ bursary?’
In response, May said: ‘Our National Health Service staff are working hard; they’re providing a quality of care for patients up and down the country. What they don’t need is a Labour Party policy that leads to a bankrupt economy.’
Corbyn suggested that nurses are being so ‘overstretched that they cannot provide the high quality care needed’ for patients and concluded the exchange by saying, ‘There is a nursing shortage. Something should be done about it, such as reinstating the nurses’ bursary.’