RCN call for significant student funding with understaffing jeopardising NHS care
Patient care in the NHS is suffering due to vacancies in the health service, nurses have said as they called for significant investment in student funding.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) called for at least £1 billion a year to be put into nursing education.
A funding boost introduced as part of the NHS’s forthcoming long-term plan could encourage more people to study nursing and begin to address the 42,000 nursing vacancies in England, the college said.
The RCN said that since the nursing bursary was stopped in 2016, applications to courses have decreased and fewer people have been accepted on to nursing courses.
It has examined a number of measures which could help, including a maintenance grant for all nursing students and practical support for tuition, including bringing back the bursary or introducing forgivable loans.
Forgivable loans could be paid back by the Government in return for service, the RCN said.
Professor Dame Donna Kinnair (pictured), acting chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “Every day provides new disastrous examples of how understaffing is crippling our health and social care system.
“Patient care is suffering, services are closing and overstretched nurses are working unpaid hours to keep health and care services afloat. Nursing students are inappropriately being used to plug gaps.
“With student numbers plummeting, nurse vacancies are predicted to rise to 48,000 by 2023. If this is allowed to happen, it is patients who will pay the highest price. But Government can stop this.
“The disastrous decision to scrap the nursing student bursary has failed students, the existing workforce and patients. The RCN has costed options to help attract and support nursing students, safeguard the future of the nursing profession, and secure the future of safe patient care in England.
“As part of the NHS Ten Year Plan we want at least £1 billion invested in nursing higher education – ambitions are nothing without enough staff to make them happen.”
Meanwhile, a study of student doctors by the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF) found that around 1,000 medical students have withdrawn from their course in the last five years.
The medical charity sent freedom of information requests to all UK medical schools.
It said 22 universities reported 771 withdrawals.
Extrapolating the figures, the charity estimated the UK-wide figure was “well over 1,000”.
Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, president of the RMBF, said: “We are seeing more and more medical students coming to us for support, and that’s no surprise when our research shows around two-thirds are facing financial or mental health pressures.
“In many cases these students are facing a choice between food and rent – with their finances put under extreme strain by costs that are especially high for medical students, such as professional clothing, transport and placements.
“Our medical students matter to this country and to future patients so it is vital that we give them the help they need to succeed. These are people who we and our children will depend on in future, and supporting them is one of the best investments we can make.”
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