UNISON Northern Region are organising a rally at Grey’s Monument, Newcastle on Saturday (January 9) to support the NHS Bursary ahead of a Parliamentary debate on the issue on January 11.
The Government plans, announced as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Spending Review, is believed to force nurses into debt of at least £51,600 by making them pay the entire bill for their training – even though it is reported that nurses spend 50 per cent of their training time working for the NHS on clinical placements, and their starting salary is £22,799.
September this year is said to be the last time anyone in England can apply for the bursary.
The rally will be addressed by Chi Onwurah, Newcastle Central’s MP and Clare Williams, UNISON’s Regional Convenor.
Ms Williams said: “Axing this bursary means that many people, predominantly young working class people, won’t be able to afford their dreams of training as nurses, physiotherapists or midwives.
“This is another crushing blow to the hopes and aspirations of young people and it saddens me immensely.”
It is also believed that the repayments nurses will be required to make on their debt could ensure a permanently poor workforce.
But it might not be just nurses, as the move could also mean that thousands of student midwives, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, podiatrists, radiographers, dieticians, operating department practitioners, and possibly paramedics, may be over £50,000 in debt when they graduate.
Linda Hobson, a nurse at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust and UNISON’s Regional Chair of its Health Group, said: “Student nurses work full-time hours in placement for around half the year and spend the rest of the time in lectures, without a summer holiday or Easter break.
“Taking away the NHS bursary will compromise their studies and therefore patient care.”