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Wednesday, 09 May 2018

Cutting nursing bursary scheme branded 'false economy' for NHS, says Labour

Written by Elizabeth Arnold

Cutting the nursing bursary scheme has been a "false economy" for the NHS, a Labour MP has warned.

Stella Creasy raised concerns over the nursing vacancy rate, a decline in EU nursing applications and use of agency staff as she and other Opposition MPs attacked the Government's withdrawal of NHS nursing bursaries during Commons health and social care questions.

Health minister Stephen Barclay replied: "It's not a false economy to increase the supply of nurses which these changes have done."

He said nursing remained a strong career choice with more than 22,500 students placed during the 2017 Ucas application cycle, adding: "Demand for nursing places continues to outstrip training places available."

Shadow health and social care minister Justin Madders said nursing applications were down two years in a row, adding: "Isn't it time ministers admitted that they've got this one wrong and join us in the lobby tomorrow to vote against any further extensions to this failed policy?"

Ms Creasy (Walthamstow) said: "The NHS already has a vacancy rate for 34,000 nurses. Given that there has been a 97% drop in applications from the EU for nursing and that studies show that now nearly half of all shifts in hospitals include agency nurses, will the minister at least admit that cutting the bursary scheme has been a false economy for our NHS?"

Labour's Gill Furniss (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) said: "Figures from the Royal College of Nursing show that applications have fallen by 33% since the withdrawal of bursaries, whilst at the same time the Government's Brexit shambles has seen EU nursing applications drastically decline.

"How many years of such decline do we have to see before the Secretary of State and the minister will intervene?"

Mr Barclay said 5,000 more nurses would be trained each year up to 2020 as a result of the changes.

He added: "These changes are part of a wider package of measures from the Government including the Agenda for Change pay rises, the return to practice which has seen 4,355 starters returning back to the profession and more and more nurses being trained, which is why we now have over 13,000 more nurses than in 2010."

Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) said there was an NHS nursing staffing crisis as he asked how cutting bursaries would improve that situation.

Mr Barclay said the Government was removing the cap on the number of places the bursaries covered and increasing the number of student places by 25%.

SNP health spokeswoman Dr Philippa Whitford said Scotland was supporting the finances for student nurses and called on the Government to accept "this was a mistake and reintroduce the nursing bursaries".

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Yui Mok / PA Wire.