Funding for nursing education needs to be urgently reconsidered say healthcare education professionals.
The Council of Deans of Health and Universities UK said in a joint statement that the current funding system 'is now longer working for either students or universities.' They urge the government to consider whether the current system fo NHS-funded grants could be moved to a system of student loans. The call comes as the NHS faces a workforce crisis and health students are facing financial hardship.
At the moment NHS-funded students mostly have grants rather than loans, but they often have less to live on despite their course being significantly longer than those who are not on NHS-funded courses. Their funding is also reduced in third year, when workloads increase. Funding for nursing degrees is lower than any other subject in higher education.
'Health professional education funding is an inconsistent patchwork with difference between professions and increasingly within professions. As a starting point, we believe that the governement should commit to funding that is coherent across the professions and consistent within professions, so that students get the same support, wherever they study,' the statement read.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans of Health, said: 'There are no easy decisions on funding reform but with appropriate safeguards, the outstanding record of nursing, midwifery and AHPs in widening participation to higher education can continue. There are risks to change but if we want the numbers of health professionals that we know future patients will need, the system must be overhauled.'
Professor Steve West, Chair of Universities UK's Health Education and Research Policy Network, said: 'It is time for change. The current system of funding is not working. We don't have enough nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in training to meet the current and future needs of patients. At the same time, students are not receiving enough financial support to meet their day to day costs of living and universities receive less for many of these courses than they actually cost to deliver, and less than the £9000 fee that universities receive for other subjects.'
The organisations also call on the government to explore new ways of attracting newly-qualified staff into careers in the NHS and social care. This could include offering repayments of part of a studen'ts loan after a given period of service which could help employers reduce spend on agency staff.