The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) says the government has not thought hard enough about “the risks” of its plans to change student nurse funding.
Janet Davies, the chief executive and general secretary of the RCN is calling on the government to halt its proposals until a “more suitable model of funding can be found.”
She said there needs to be a rethink of the plans which are out for consultation until June 30.
The proposed changes would see the scrapping of bursaries for student nurses and midwives from Health Education England and the NHS Business Services Authority for all new students from August 2017.
Instead students would be offered funding through the student loans system which they would have to start repaying when they earn £21,000 or more.
The government said it wanted to increase the number of student nurses and reduce its reliance on overseas and agency nurses and ensure the profession was open to all.
Davies said: ‘The government hope to increase nurse numbers but the plans aren’t reflecting the realities of modern nurse training and could actually have the opposite effect.
“Nursing students’ placements and longer term times mean they do not have the opportunity to earn extra money during their studies.
“A higher proportion are also mature students, and the prospect of taking on even more debt with a second degree will likely put off many potentials nurses.”
She also criticised the “open market” approach to funding nursing places risks an uneven distribution of nurses over specialisms and across the country.
Davies was also concerned about how extra high quality placements for student nurses will be funded or monitored.
She called for a return to the drawing board to find “a fair, effective and sustainable funding system for nursing education.”
Launching the consultation earlier this month care quality minister Ben Gummer said: “Changes like this are never easy but we strongly believe that these policies will be good for students, good for patients, good for universities and good for our NHS.”
The RCN staged a march in Westminster in January in protest against the scrapping of bursaries.
The Royal College of Midwives has estimated midwives starting their training in 2017 could potentially start their careers with £60,000 of debt.