Student Nurses

At a time when National Health Service staff and resources are stretched almost to breaking point our wonderful government have come up with a brilliant plan to reduce the number of nurses in training, thus saving costs on the training budget, and also on future staffing budgets.

Basically George Osborne in his Autumn spending review proposed that the current system of bursaries for student nurses be replaced with a system of loans.

Civil servants are weighing up the potential unpopularity of the move, and the risk of it worsening the existing shortage of NHS nurses, against it potentially freeing up about £800m a year for the government.

It is one of a series of cuts to non-frontline areas of NHS activity and funding that Treasury officials are examining as part of a division of the Department of Health’s ringfenced £116bn annual budget into protected and non-protected areas.

Public health has already suffered a £200m cut and there are also likely to be fewer or less rigorous inspections of hospitals and GP surgeries as part of savings forced on the Care Quality Commission, the NHS care watchdog.
The axing of public funding for future generations of nurses would be controversial. The boss of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned that ending financial support could hit recruitment by putting off people from poorer backgrounds and those considering a change in career.

“Anything that makes people worse off and puts people off from becoming nurses, and reduces the link between student nurses and the NHS, would be a big loss to our society and put us in a precarious position,” said Janet Davies, the RCN’s general secretary and chief executive. She described the plan as “not helpful”.

The proposal could deter the sizeable number of student nurses already owing significant amounts from a previous degree, Davies warned. “The average age of students on nursing degree courses is 29. They’re not all 18-year-olds,” she said.

However I have a better idea. Given that as part of their training nurses do spend quite a lot of their time actually working in hospitals, I suggest that the apprenticeship model of training be adopted. Craft apprentices are paid a salary during their training and their college fees are met by their employers. Why? because their employers see them as valuable members of the workforce who contribute, not just when they are fully trained, but during their training as well. Student (apprentice)Nurses should be employed by the NHS from day one of their training.

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