Nursing staff work long hours, often in difficult circumstances, and they take a direct role in caring for patients when they are at their most vulnerable. They deserve out respect, admiration and support. It is absolutely crucial that the Government does not put people off pursuing a career in nursing.

In the recent Spending Review, the Chancellor announced that from September 2017, NHS bursaries for training nurses, midwives and Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) will be abolished and replaced with student loans.

The Government claim the reform will save around £800 million a year whilst enabling universities to provide up to 10,000 additional places. However, a recent survey by UNISON revealed that over 90 per cent of current student nurses say they would not have applied for the nursing degree without access to the bursary.

Given there is already a shortage of nurses, with some hospital wards dangerously understaffed, anything that risks worsening that shortage is deeply concerning and should be opposed. NHS staff have already been hit by pay freezes and rising car parking charges. It cannot be right for the Government to now try and balance the books off the back of hard-pressed nurses.

I appreciate how strongly NHS staff feel about this issue and that there is also real concern among many people in Bristol West and across the country. Indeed, the ‘Keep the NHS Bursary’ petition has attracted over 145,000 signatures, triggering a debate in Parliament on 11th January 2016.

The Government promised a consultation on the changes in January 2016 and I believe they should listen carefully to all the concerns raised.

Published 13 January 2017

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