A ‘fundamental mistake’ by the government has now become law as bursaries were officially axed for student nurses.
The Royal College of Midwifery (RCM) criticised the move as tuition fees were also introduced into legislation on 1 August for student nurses and midwives set to begin training next month.
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Data from UCAS had already revealed that applications for nursing courses has fallen by a quarter since the previous year. England alone is 40,000 nurses and 3,500 midwives short, with hopes that new blood would fill the vacancies dashed by the new rules.
RCM policy director Jon Skewes said: ‘We believe this decision is a fundamental mistake by the government and have warned about the wide reaching implications of removing the student midwifery bursary given the existing crisis in our maternity services.
‘With younger midwives leaving, an ageing workforce and the loss of EU midwives post Brexit, the RCM has grave concerns for staffing our maternity services. The axing of the bursary and introduction of tuition in England will without doubt worsen the current shortage of midwives.
‘We are dealing with a profession that is already overworked, understaffed and under paid. The government should be doing all it can to make midwifery and working in the NHS as attractive as possible rather than deterring those by cutting public funding to train frontline staff.’
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The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned that the nursing sector will continue to suffer as the new legislation joins a 1% cap on pay rises and poor working conditions as factors keeping potential nurses away from the profession.
‘When the NHS is struggling without enough staff to provide safe care, extra effort is needed to bring more nursing staff through training,’ said chief executive Janet Davies. ‘Despite government promises, the number of training places has not increased and student interest has fallen dramatically.
‘The nursing shortage will get even worse unless ministers support people into training and scrap the cap on pay to keep experienced staff.’
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New students starting from this academic year will now need to take out a loan to cover tuition fees and day-to-day costs. If the full amount is taken, the government estimates this to be just under £50,000 for a three-year course.
The government has said that there have previously been more applications than funded places available. It claims the removal of bursaries will mean an additional 10,000 training places for healthcare students could be made available by 2020.