Health chiefs warn of ‘reckless’ cuts in student nurse funding

Britain’s major health organisations have called on the government to put a stop to “reckless” plans to reform student nurse funding in the current climate of uncertainty and NHS staff shortages.

Led by the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Patients Association, a coalition of more than 20 charities, medical and professional bodies and trade unions today releases an open letter to David Cameron saying that moves to drop funding for student nurses and midwives are an “untested gamble”.

Currently open to a 12-week consultation, which closes on 30 June, the proposals include dropping bursaries to support nurses during their training and switching them to student loans – something health experts warn will risk reducing the supply of future nurses, midwives and other health workers when they are desperately needed.

They are asking the prime minister to fully consider the impact on patient care in England. Training for nurses had been treated differently to other higher and further education courses precisely to help reverse the shortages.

The organisations highlight the “worrying lack of clarity or consultation about the effect that funding changes could have on those who need to train for more advanced or specialist roles, such as health visitors or district nurses”.

It comes as an RCN survey points to a dramatic fall in the number of school nurses, with almost a third working unpaid overtime every day to keep up with their workload. In figures released for its national conference this weekend, the RCN said its research showed the number of school nursing posts had fallen by 10% since 2010, leaving 2,700 school nurses now caring for more than nine million pupils, despite a rising incidence in issues, especially in mental health, among children.

Full story in The Guardian 18 June 2016