From the TUC

Government lands NHS students with massive new debts

08 Dec 2015, by Guest in Public services

England is short of 2,600 midwives and has been thousands short for at least a generation. The national midwife shortage has proved a really hard nut to crack. The NHS continues to need every midwife it can get.

Successive governments have tried to drive down that shortage by helping healthcare students through their studies and into work in the NHS. Right now, for example, student midwives can receive a bursary to help them with their living costs.

In recent years, that has worked out on average at between £5,500 and £6,000, according to recent figures. They also get their tuition fees paid. And this is all fair enough because these people, once they qualify, will go on to staff our health service. They will care for us, so we invest in them.

That’s all about to change however, and in a big way. The Chancellor announced in his big Spending Review on 25 November that bursaries will be abolished. Student midwives and others will also be required to pay tuition fees, in full.

Student midwives will have to borrow all this money instead. Put together, it means that newly-qualified midwives will be weighed down by massive debts as they walk through the door of the maternity unit on their first day in practice.

These changes won’t just affect student midwives, but also those studying to become nurses, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, amongst many other healthcare professions. These are the people who will staff our hospitals, surgeries and clinics for decades to come and the Government is treating them with contempt.

These women and men are incredibly dedicated people doing a vital job under intense pressure. Our NHS is dealing with increasing demands that are far outpacing the money set aside by the Government to pay for healthcare. But, instead of investing in improving care and delivering the extra staff we need, the Government has instead just landed them with a massive bill.

Instead of seeing the dedication of these people and wanting to nurture and support them through their studies and into practice, the Government seems to see their commitment as something they can exploit. They see someone desperate to become a midwife and calculate that they can squeeze that person for lots of money. It is a sad and deeply cynical way to behave.

But we don’t have to accept this and we won’t. Trade unions, including the RCM, are supporting healthcare students to fight this outrageous attack. A petition to Parliament has quickly topped 140,000 signatures, and a date – 11 January – has already been set for it to be debated by MPs.

Please sign the petition, if you haven’t already, and share it with colleagues, friends and family. And email your MP, tell them what you think about this plan, and ask them to attend and speak in the debate.

We won’t eliminate the national midwife shortage by driving away potential recruits. We must do everything we can to oppose these changes, which are not just bad news for student midwives, nurses, radiographers and others, but bad news too for the NHS and everyone who depends on it.

5 Responses to Government lands NHS students with massive new debts

  1. karen dring
    Dec 8th 2015, 8:38 pm

    We need these students. Without them there will be no nhs! Our government should be supporting them not making it more difficult and leaving them with huge debts in return for their dedication. Step up to the mark government…otherwise there will be no nhs staff!

  2. Deirdre Pattenden
    Dec 8th 2015, 11:40 pm

    At this rate we have no hope of getting good quality care when we really need it. How many people, who would have applied for such a dedicated and caring profession, will also put their own families or future under the pressure of such a large amount of debt? VERY FEW!!! If we WANT QUALITY – We have to SUPPORT training it…Not place the further burden on those who will provide it -As a Retired RN – I am frightened that when it comes to my needing the sort of care I gave to others…it won’t be there…and I know a lot of my former colleagues feel the same. Making it HARDER TO TRAIN AS A REGISTERED NURSE OR MIDWIFE IS NOT THE ANSWER! We need dedicated nurses & midwives who will work for the NHS because it trained them. Not ones who think ‘I paid for my training’ I’ll get the best price for my recompense elsewhere it the world and pay my debt off sooner! WAKE UP UK GOVERNMENT…it wont work!!

  3. john
    Dec 9th 2015, 2:48 pm

    Why is the British Public putting up with this Tory Nonsense,this is being done to put another nail in the coffin of our Health Service,by castigating the very people they should be helping.We need these young people to man our hospitals.the Tory Government need to be taken out of the equation.our health service is not a Business and cannot for that very reason be run as one.

  4. anon
    Dec 9th 2015, 7:57 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree that it would be wrong to land newly qualified nurses and midwives in more debt(I am a midwife myself and benefitted from the bursary). However, it only puts them on the same footing as other students, and at least they have a very good chance of getting a job when they qualify. One of my children is a medical student and will be approx £80 000 in debt when she qualifies. Although she has the potential to earn more than a nurse, she will be paying that off for most of her working life. Its all very sad, but we don’t make money, and that is what is valued by society.

  5. Yvonne Negus
    Dec 9th 2015, 8:32 pm

    Surely part of the reason they get bursaries is that they are in effect working for the NHS three days a week while doing their degrees and learning ‘ on the job’ .They cannot do paid work ,as can most students, as their shifts are unpredictable and their terms are longer than those of your average student .My daughter is a qualified midwife and says the students are a desperately needed extra pair of hands .