A senior nurse has warned that the future of nursing training hangs in the balance through the government’s plans to scrap student bursaries and the creation of nursing associates and apprentices.
The head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Janet Davies warned that the profession was “at a crossroads” and the three government proposals have the potential to “move us back to how nursing education was delivered in the past”.
She said a university education offered the best way to develop critical skills needed for nursing but the abolition of bursaries from next year risked the future of nursing.
“Modern nursing is complex and requires high levels of skills and knowledge, as well as compassion and caring, “ said Davies.
Davies called on the government to put a halt to its plans for nursing and midwifery students to fund their studies through student loans instead of bursaries.
She said there was no evidence to support the changes.
The RCN is campaigning against the changes and is urging its members to respond to the government consultation.
Davies said the role of nursing associates, which will bridge the gap between healthcare assistants and graduate registered nurses, could be a step forward, but only if support staff get opportunities for training and career progression as well as regulation.
They should not be used as substitute for recruiting enough registered nurses or be used as “nursing on the cheap”, she stressed.
She added that more information is needed about the apprenticeship scheme, including how they will get degree level knowledge, experience and skills across a wide range of healthcare settings with the flexibility to take on new and different roles.