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.”