13 Jul 2016
MillionPlus, the Association of Modern Universities, has published its response to the Department of Health’s Reforming healthcare education funding: creating a sustainable future workforce consultation, calling for the abolition of NHS bursaries to be deferred at least until the 2018-19 academic year.
Professor Dave Phoenix, Chair of MillionPlus and Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University, said:
“The Department of Health’s proposals create risks in a number of areas, not least because many of the premises are less than water tight. In particular Ministers have been unable to provide assurances on the funding and the management of placements that are essential to deliver the additional 10,000 qualified nurses, midwives and allied health professional staff that Ministers say will be provided by replacing NHS bursaries with the student loan system.
“These students are required to complete up to 2,300 hours of clinical placements during their course to obtain professional registration. Unless the Department of Health allocates sufficient ring-fenced funds for more placements, any expansion of the market will be limited by the availability of funding in NHS Trusts and providers that are already cash-strapped.
“Ministers have repeatedly said that many students are turned away from nursing courses each year. However, each potential student can make up to five applications, some applicants are not offered places because they are not qualified and there is already a shortage of good applicants in areas such as adult nursing. It is therefore important that enrolments rather than applications are taken into account by Ministers.
“It is well-known that part-time and mature students are more debt averse and that they make up a much higher proportion of the nursing, midwifery and allied health student cohort. The abolition of bursaries has the potential to undermine the future diversity of the NHS workforce as well as future participation in postgraduate pre-registration study in particular for those graduates who have accessed the 2012 loan system.
“Unfortunately, the consultation also begs questions about the future funding of programmes which support the primary care workforce including health visitors, district and school nurses and is silent on the funding of pathways to support mental health. Given the priority that the government has placed on this agenda this is a major omission.
“The admissions year for 2017-18 students opens in autumn 2016. Given the lack of any real assurances about placement funding and the many questions that remain outstanding, it would be in the best interests of students and the short and long-term future of the NHS workforce if the abolition of NHS bursaries was deferred until the 2018-19 academic year at the earliest.
“This would allow the transition to the student loan system that the government wants to progress, to be properly managed and the problems highlighted in the responses of MillionPlus and the professional health organisations to be fully considered and sorted out.”
Notes to editors