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MP behind safe staffing Bill defends view on nurse bursary

Maria Caulfield MP has defended her views on the removal of the student nurse bursary in England after she brought a safe staffing Bill before Parliament yesterday (8 October). 

Ms Caulfield said she worked with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the Bill in order to ensure the Government became accountable for the nursing workforce in England. 

But the nurse and RCN member is facing backlash on Twitter around her support of the removal of the bursary in England, a policy the RCN has repeatedly questioned and has been linked with a fall in nursing degree applications.

Upscaling the nurse degree apprenticeship route 'will provide a better way of training and help with recruitment and retention of student nurses' than the bursary had, she told Nursing in Practice in response to the criticism. 

'My Bill in Parliament aims to ensure that happens,' she added. 

 

 

Ms Caulfield pointed out that she had 'voted and spoken out against the removal of the bursary and lobbied ministers at the time when this was put forward'.

She continued: 'I have since then been working hard to promote degree apprenticeships as a way forward for nurse training where students don’t have to pay fees and earn while they learn.

'While I objected to the removal of the bursary, having trained on it myself, I know it was far from ideal in terms of surviving on a tiny amount to live on each month.'

Questionable voting record? 

Nurses also condemned Ms Caulfield's voting record and called into question the RCN's decision to work with her on the Bill. 

In June 2017, Ms Caulfield controversially voted against Labour's amendment to the Queen's speech, which included a proposal to reverse the 1% public sector pay cap.

In a statement released on Facebook at the time, Ms Caulfield stressed she would vote for a ‘meaningful pay rise’ for nurses in the Autumn budget and campaigned with the RCN to 'Scrap the Cap' later that year.

 

 

 

'Thank you Maria'

Others supported Ms Caulfield in bringing the Bill before Parliament.

 

 

Ms Caulfield said: 'I am pleased that the nursing community is getting behind the RCN campaign for safe staffing levels and I am pleased my Parliamentary bill will help ensure legal accountability for staffing levels and workforce planning and ensuring nurses have access to the training they need to develop their roles'. 

In response to the questions raised by nurses about the RCN partnering with Ms Caulfield, an RCN spokesperson told Nursing in Practice: 'The RCN works across all political parties to build the coalition of support for our campaigns, and the nursing profession. Members of Parliament will find the RCN supportive if they wish to bring forward legislative proposals supporting our members’ priorities.'

 

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