Nursing students will receive a £5,000 a year to cover living costs from September 2020, the Government has announced today.
Up to £3,000 in additional payments will also be available for students in regions or specialisms struggling to recruit – such as mental health – including help to cover childcare costs.
The new universal offer, which will not need to be repaid, will be offered to all new and continuing degree-level nursing, midwifery and many allied health students.
The Government claims the commitment forms part of the ‘biggest recruitment drive in decades’, backed up by the NHS ‘We Are The NHS, We Are Nurse’ campaign.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said the pledge was a ‘crucial part’ of delivering the Government’s manifesto commitment to deliver 50,000 more nurses.
However, the Conservatives were criticised after it emerged the figure included 18,5000 existing and returning nurses.
Mr Johnson continued: ‘There can be no doubting our commitment to the NHS, and over the coming months we will bring forward further proposals to transform this great country.’
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘As we enter the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we are embarking on the biggest nursing recruitment drive in decades, backed by a new universal support package.’
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, welcomed a ‘strong commitment’ to nursing and midwifery through additional financial support.
She added: ‘As we deliver on our NHS Long Term Plan, we need anyone thinking about their next career move – young or old, man or woman, newcomer or returner – to come and join our drive to recruit and build a first-class team delivering world-class care to our patients.’
Meanwhile, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Dame Donna Kinnair, said the grant represents a ‘first victory’ for their ‘Fund Our Future’ nursing campaign.
She continued: ‘In the run up to the Budget, we continue to call for our students to not pay tuition fees up-front. Any barriers for people wanting to enter nursing must be removed.’
The RCN is also calling for at least £1 billion extra per year to be invested in nurse higher education.
Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: ‘The Conservative’s policy of forcing would-be nurses to pay tuition fees has demonstrably failed in the last two years. While it is good to see that they have u-turned on their terrible policy position, nurses have called for additional funding to cover tuition fees too, not just living costs as the Tories promised in their manifesto.
‘The NHS is chronically short of staff, including over 40,000 nurses. The Tories now bear the burden of fixing the crisis in the NHS which ten years of their underfunding has created.’