The Welsh Government has extended its NHS bursary scheme to support nursing students with tuition fees and living costs until 2025, it has been confirmed.
The bursary, which provides non-repayable support, is offered to student nurses, midwives and allied healthcare professionals who commit to working in Wales for up to two years after their studies.
Ministers said the bursary has ‘helped so many people’ and stressed the importance of supporting healthcare students during the current cost-of-living crisis.
In addition, the Welsh Government is removing a cap applied to NHS bursary students when applying for a maintenance loan.
Students in receipt of the NHS Wales Bursary are currently only able to apply for a reduced maintenance loan in accordance with Student Finance Wales criteria.
But the government has now announced that from the 2024/25 academic year, healthcare students can apply for the full amount of the maintenance loan, in addition to the NHS Wales Bursary.
Health minister Eluned Morgan said: ‘We are determined to ensure Wales remains an attractive proposition for talented healthcare students.
‘That’s why we continue to invest in the training of the dedicated nurses, midwives and other highly skilled professionals working in our NHS.’
She added: ‘This bursary has helped so many people qualify and work in the NHS, bolstering our workforce.’
Meanwhile, access to the full maintenance loan would also help those beginning their healthcare journeys to ‘combat financial hardship and poor mental health amid the continuing cost-of-living crisis’, noted Ms Morgan.
Chief nursing officer for Wales Sue Tranka added: ‘I am delighted we are once again extending the NHS bursary and demonstrating a clear commitment to ensuring the future sustainability of the NHS workforce.’
However, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Wales said the announcement from the government ‘needs to be the start of a reform to ensure nursing is a profession that people want to enter’.
Sandy Harding, RCN Wales associate director (professional practice), said: ‘Nursing students spend 50% of their time working on placements and need to support their families.
‘Too many people are discouraged from becoming nurses because of the financial hardship.’
She added: ‘Nursing in higher education needs to be sustainable for the sector and provide research and career opportunities.
‘Wales needs nurses so the Welsh government must prioritise the future of nursing education.’