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Funding changes will not help safety

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Removing the bursary will harm patient care Removing the bursary will harm patient care in the long-term

The QNI is alarmed by the plans for the removal of all Health Education England (HEE) funding for post-registration awards and programmes for nurses and allied health professionals from September 2017.

I have written previously about the current Department of Health (DH) consultation on the impact of the changes to the funding of nurse education, including the removal of the student nurse bursary. It is important to note this is a consultation on the impact of this change, not on whether it should be introduced or not.

Tuition fees for student nurses are currently paid via a contract for an agreed number of nurses to be trained each year, informed by workforce planning intelligence from the NHS provider organisations in the local area.

The DH predicts that this change will result in an increased number of student nurses being trained. There is an assumption that when the universities are free from the constraints of a contract, they will be able to increase the number of places available to student nurses.

Of course, there is a requirement to increase the number of suitable practice placements to match any increase in student numbers, an issue that many nurses tell me will be a challenge and is likely to be a limiting factor in the proposed growth of places on nursing programmes.

At the same time that this major change is being introduced, all HEE funding for programmes leading to a professional award or a postgraduate qualification will cease. From September 2017, individual nurses or their employers will be responsible for funding the cost of specialist education including district nursing, prescribing, and health visiting among others.

There has been no announcement, no consultation, no research, no risk assessment of the consequences of this and most importantly, no consideration of the impact on patient safety.

The removal of HEE funding will lead to a significant reduction in the availability of nurses trained to lead and manage teams in the most complex and high risk environments and those who provide specialist nursing care and interventions, specifically in the community and primary care. There is an urgent need to call on the government to pause this decision and consult on the change. Please ensure you respond, before the 30 June deadline at http://bit.ly/1PrhIDXe

Crystal Oldman, chief executive, Queen’s Nursing Institute

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