The plans to axe student bursaries are 'vindictive' says Unison general secretary.
Speaking at a summit earlier today to discuss action on the student nurse bursary Dave Prentis, the union's general secretary, said that they would stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with students to fight the decision.
‘Cutting the bursary will free £52 million, which in comparison to the billions that make up the NHS deficit is a small amount. This decision is vindictive and it is not being done to save money,’ he said.
‘It terrifies me that nursing could become a profession only for those that can afford it,’ he added.
He laid out a number of commitments that Unison would undertake to ensure that student nurses are well equipped to challenge the government’s decision on bursaries.
The union will form a committee of healthcare students that will liaise with other unions, look at the legal implications of taking away the bursaries and then attempt to get political backing to challenge the decision.
Discussions at the summit also highlighted that simply removing the cap and training 10,000 more nurses won’t fix the shortfall in nurses that the NHS is currently experiencing. Gail Adams the head of nursing at Unison, said that the flooding of student nurses into the NHS will impact on the quality of placements that students will receive.
She also questioned the value of introducing apprenticeships as an alternative route into nursing, as preliminary results from their hardship survey found that no nursing students have entered the profession through that route. ‘We are not against widening partnership, but it needs to be through a channel that solves the problem,’ she said.
Jacob Smith, from the Kings College London Nursing and Midwifery society said that it was a shame that more students hadn’t been able to attend the summit and that it was really important for students to use their voices. He said that they were currently organising an hour-long walkout for student nurses on 10 February to show solidarity to the junior doctor strike that will be happening at the same time.