‘More must be done’ to entice next generation of healthcare workers

The Government is putting measures in place to make studying to work in midwifery, nursing or dentistry more affordable, although those in education warned “more work needs to be done”.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said eligible students on nursing, midwifery, allied health professions, medical and dental courses will be able to claim back 50% more on travel and accommodation expenses, while students from lower-income families will also be given financial help.

It comes after the publication of the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan, a blueprint backed by £2.4 billion of investment focused on how the health service will recruit, retain and train staff in the coming years.

Health minister Will Quince (pictured) said the changes will “ensure a diverse range of students can pursue a career in nursing, midwifery or medicine”.

“Ahead of the biggest ever expansion of education and training places as part of the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan, this will help to support the next generation of NHS staff in their training,” he added.

Under new travel and accommodation rates, students will receive 42p for every mile travelled in their own car, up from 28p.

They can also claim 30p per mile travelled on a bicycle – up from 20p – for general maintenance.

If they need to spend a night in a hotel or bed and breakfast, £82.50 per night can be claimed back, up from £55.

Some £37.50 per night can also be claimed back for non-commercial accommodation – such as staying with a friend or relative, but not parents – up from £25.

The means testing threshold for the NHS Bursary Scheme has been raised – a student will be eligible for support if their parent or partner earns £26,076 a year, up from £24,279.

Childcare allowance has also been uplifted to allow students to claim more support where needed.

Dr Nichola Ashby, deputy director for nursing at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said the move is an “important step in improving nursing students’ ability to afford to fulfil their placements” but called for “more radical changes” to address the shortage of nursing students.

A report by the college published earlier this year claimed there will be 2,000 fewer nursing students graduating from education in 2025 than there are in 2024.

Dr Ashby added: “There is a worrying bigger picture: nursing students accepted on to degree courses this month are down 13%.

“The Government must remove the burden of student debt and tuition fees from prospective nurses, and better pay those in the profession. These changes must be made if the NHS Workforce Plan is to deliver the nursing staff needed for the NHS and social care.

“Far more work needs to be done to make nursing attractive to the next generation. The nurses of tomorrow are still being put off by the prospect of eye-watering student debt, low pay, and intolerable working conditions.”

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