UNISON members vowed yesterday to continue the fight against the scrapping of the NHS bursary and “to get rid of this nasty, vicious NHS-hating Tory government.”
The government announced last year that the bursary — available to nursing, midwifery and some allied healthcare students — would be axed from autumn 2017 and replaced by tuition fees.
Health ministers claimed that it would free up about £800 million a year and create additional nursing roles along with an extra 10,000 training places.
However, delegates heard how applications had fallen by a shocking 23 per cent, with mature student applications down by a third.
Nursing and midwifery occupation group rep Linda Hobson told delegates: “If someone had come to me as a careers adviser and said: ‘You want to be a nurse, so pay us £9,250 a year, do night shifts,’ … and told us that when you qualify you would have £50,000 to £60,000 of debt, I wouldn’t have considered doing it.”
She blasted: “We need a living bursary. This is about the future of my profession and the future of our NHS.”
Student nurse Ishtar Rauf explained: “The majority of my group are female. Many are from BME [black and minority ethnic] backgrounds. The majority have a job to supplement their bursary. They work 40 hours a week for free and often work a further 30 hours a week to make ends meet.
“I consider it perverse that I am expected to work for free.”
She warned that the axing of the bursary would mean the “NHS would be robbed of the opportunity to employ good staff because people cannot afford the fee.”
James Anthony of the West Midlands said: “Scrapping student bursaries is, in effect, a pay cut for all newly qualified nurses.
“It is completely unacceptable: while we have a 1 per cent pay restraint, they are coming after the pay of our future staff.”
“We are sick of their lies … we must get rid of this nasty, vicious NHS-hating Tory government,” he stormed.