Unite has welcomed government plans to provide financial assistance to student nurses but said they are not enough to end chronic shortfalls in NHS health professional numbers.
Nursing students, as well as a those studying in some allied health professions, will be eligible for annual payments of £5,000 to £8,000 from September 2020, according to a government announcement.
Unite said prospective healthcare professionals will still have to shoulder huge tuition fee loans to enter their chosen career.
The union added that the measures are not enough to recruit the extra number of nurses and healthcare professionals needed to bring NHS staff numbers back to ‘sustainable levels’ and called on the government to reinstate the NHS student bursary system in full.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said, “Any initiative that helps to plug the huge shortfall in health professionals that has steadily grown since the Conservative’s disastrous decision to scrap NHS student bursaries in 2016 is to be welcomed.
“But given the government’s record on exaggerating the numbers – by promising 50,000 new nurses for example, even though 19,000 of those are nurses already working in the NHS who will be retained – this announcement should be taken with a heavy pinch of salt.
“Even if the government’s pledge is delivered in full, prospective healthcare students will still have to pay exorbitant tuition fees of around £10,000 a year for at least three years. They will still be expected to shoulder thousands of pounds of debt for a job where the pay scale does not reflect the highly skilled and stressful nature of the role.
“With applications for healthcare degrees falling by nearly a third since NHS bursaries were abolished and the 44,000 current NHS nursing vacancies predicted to reach 70,000 in the next five years, these measures will not be enough to bring NHS staffing numbers back to sustainable levels. For that to happen, full NHS bursaries, that cover tuition fees as well as living costs, need to be reinstated.”