Reductions in training

Training is very important in the NHS; the NHS needs to train new staff and it needs to keep its current staff up-to-date with changes in practice and innovations in heal.

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Training is vital if patients are to receive the best care within the NHS. So in the Government’s spending review in November 2015 George Osborne announced that the Department of Health’s budget for non-frontline services, including medical training, will be cut by £1.5 billion. The result of these cuts can already be seen.

Nurse training places cut

In a March 2016 report the independent Migration Advisory Committee stated that the nationwide shortage of nurses has been driven by a desire from the government to save money. The committee revealed that Health Education England would have commissioned 3,000 extra nurse training places for 2016-17, but that financial cuts in November’s spending review meant it commissioned only 331 extra places.

Bursaries for nurses to go

Along with the budget cuts in November 2015, the Government also announced plans to replace the current system of bursaries for student nurses, midwives and other healthcare professions with a system of loans. This is projected to save £650 million a year from HEE’s budget by 2018-19 and ultimately £1.2 billion a year by 2020-21. The Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, and many other organisations, have criticised this plan, warning that the NHS’s already chronic shortages of nurses will be made much worse. Many nurses argue that loans will deter people from choosing nursing as a career, especially mature students and those from poorer backgrounds. The Royal College of Nursing said scrapping bursaries would be “a big loss to our society”, as talented would-be nurses and midwives choose different career paths. Furthermore, nursing is not like other courses, as students spend a lot of their time on placements in hospitals doing clinical work, and do not have the time to earn money doing different jobs in the way other students can.

A consultation on the bursaries began in April 2016, although Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea told Nursing Times that the consultation is “meaningless” and claimed that the government had “already made up its mind” to replace bursaries with loans and fees.

Midwife training reduced

Reductions in training within the NHS had already begun even before the announcement in November 2015. In October 2015 the Royal College of Midwives survey of Heads of Midwifery (HOMs) found that two-fifths – 21.9% in 2014 and 20.3% in 2015 – of HOMs had to reduce training for their staff.