The decision to scrap the NHS bursary is one of the most poorly made decisions by this government to date. It is not only vital for enabling the study of those who receive it, but also a firm acknowledgement of the work they will do both while studying and afterwards – looking after the most vulnerable in their time of need.
The government argues that this is about ‘saving money’ and ‘opening up the same opportunity’ to study as it has for other students – in other words, piling on huge debts that many will never be able to pay back.
We know, however, that these changes could end up having exactly the opposite effect on the nursing profession and other allied health professionals. Research commissioned by the NUS and UNISON, carried out independently by London Economics, found that after graduate earnings of allied healthcare professionals are taken into account, the Treasury only saves £88 million, not the £534 million it has suggested.
The research also found that there could be an increased reliance on agency workers and demand for courses could fall, meaning yet more taxpayers’ money is spent and Higher Education Institutions could stand to lose money, placing some courses at risk.
Nurses, midwives and other allied health professionals deserve to be treated better, and the wider picture for the future of the NHS is alarming. These workers form the backbone of our health services, and a failure to recognise that fact is unforgiveable.
Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North