The SoR has endorsed a campaign by the Royal College of Nursing to get the government to look at new options to close the ‘workforce gap’ and ensure undergraduate student nurses and AHPs get the financial support they need.
Since the ending of NHS bursaries, “Rather than… take on debt and struggle through their education, tens of thousands of would-be nurses decided the course or career is now out of reach” says Professor Dame Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive and general secretary, in a foreword to a new document published by the RCN, ‘Fund our future nurses’.
She goes on to say, “The damage is so great that decisive action is needed to arrest decline and reverse the trend… Nobody is taking responsibility for staffing for safe and effective care.”
Richard Evans, the Society’s chief executive officer, said, “Recruitment to radiography courses is suffering in similar ways as nursing. The government is funding initiatives such as the #ISeetheDifference campaign to raise awareness of careers in therapeutic radiography but these don’t address the fundamental issue that for many young people and mature students alike, nursing and AHP careers are not attractive options because of the financial hardship many of them will suffer before they qualify.”
The RCN report echoes Richard’s comment, “We cannot afford to lose the nursing students we have, to fail to attract potential new students, to put up barriers to future nurses, and create an unbearable load for the existing workforce.”
The biggest impact of the loss of the bursary has been on mature students. The RCN estimates that the number of students aged over 25 applying to nursing courses has dropped by 40% since 2016.
The document identifies two funding options to make undergraduate training more attractive: a universal tuition grant with means tested maintenance; and a ‘forgivable’ tuition loan for public service. What this means for government and for students, including the costs, are examined in the report.
Nursing degree apprenticeships are also discussed in the report, which notes, “Apprenticeships can be a positive contribution to workforce supply if properly funded and the training is appropriate.
“However, there have been challenges with the implementation of the scheme, including the inflexibility of the funding apprenticeship levy such as restrictions on covering salaries and backfill costs, undermining uptake amongst employers. Between August 2017 and April 2018 only 260 people have started (a) nursing degree apprenticeship.”