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Government has ‘no plans’ to reintroduce NHS bursaries

The Royal College of Nursing has said it continues to be ‘worried’ about the falling number of student nurses despite an ever-increasing number of unfilled nursing vacancies.

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The Government has said it has ‘no plans’ to reintroduce nursing bursaries despite a continual drop in applications.

The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed there are no plans to reintroduce NHS bursaries after a petition calling for their reintroduction gained momentum.

The news comes only days after Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to increase bursaries for nursing students to £10,000 a year.

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Reforms to healthcare education funding in 2017, saw thousands of healthcare students moved from a bursary-based funding model to a student loans-based system. Ministers sold the reforms as a way to boost student places and increase the number of trainee nurses in England.

Controversially, the move saw nursing students graduating with £60,000 in debt despite remaining one of the lowest paid graduate professions.

The Royal College of Nursing has said it continues to be ‘worried’ about the falling number of student nurses despite an ever-increasing number of unfilled nursing vacancies. In England alone, official figures show the NHS is short at least 40,000 registered nurses.

‘Record numbers of nurses on wards’.

The Department of Health and Social replied; “There are no plans to reintroduce bursaries, which resulted in many students being turned away from a nursing career. We are supporting universities to fill extra places created through these reforms.”

“We are committed to ensuring nursing remains an attractive career so the NHS builds on the record number of nurses currently on wards.”

“There is still strong demand for nursing courses and we have opened extra routes into nursing for those who may not want to study a full-time degree. We expect that up to 5,000 Nursing Associates will train through the apprentice route in 2018 and up to 7,500 in 2019. We now have a complete apprentice pathway from entry level to postgraduate advanced clinical practice in nursing.”

“Under the loans system students will receive at least 25% more upfront living cost support whilst they study than they would have under the previous system. In addition, many additional funding incentives have been put in place to support students whilst undertaking the mandatory clinical placement element of their courses.”

“Eligible healthcare students have access to additional non-repayable grants of £1,000 for childcare, funding for travel to clinical placements and an exceptional support fund of up to £3,000 per student per academic year. Typically, students on the loan system are at least 25% better off whilst they study than the previous funding system.”

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Nursing vacancies hit record high leaving patient care at risk

It can be “dangerous” when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care.

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Patient Falls Risk with IV

There are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone.

NHS figures show that there are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The College says a global shortage of nurses alongside the removal of the nursing bursary has compounded this figure which now sees 12% of posts through the NHS in England without a full-time Registered Nurse.

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Figures from the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) show a 29% overall decline in applications to undergraduate courses since 2015, when the bursary was cut by the Government.

In a report released today titled ‘Standing up for patient and public safety’, the Royal College of Nursing outlines the evidence of the need for a new law that allocates specific legal responsibilities for workforce planning and supply.

A new law is needed.

The report states that in order to address the record number of vacancies, and the gap between the numbers of health and care staff needed to deliver patient care vs. how many are in the system.

Figures included in the report reveal that the number of nursing staff has consistently failed to keep up with the dramatic rise in demand for services and the number of emergency admissions.

The report finally makes a further call for legal clarity on the roles, responsibilities, as well as accountabilities, for workforce planning and supply.

In September, after pressure from RCN members, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked the Government for clarity over who is accountable for the nursing workforce.

‘Nurses are working harder than ever’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Nurses are working harder than ever to deliver safe patient care but are being held back by a system that is legally lacking teeth. Despite the public, patients and nurses all agreeing that clarity is needed on responsibilities for delivering enough nurses, we have yet to see any government pledge anything of the like, and as a result are staring down the barrel at a record 43k empty nursing posts.

“We know how dangerous it can be when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care, but at present, almost all accountability rests with the frontline nurse working on the understaffed ward, rather than those responsible for the system they work in.

“We believe the time has come for change and that patient care was future-proofed by law, and that from the government down, decision makers are held to account.

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NHS calls for clarity on who is accountable for the nursing workforce

Figures suggest there are around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies throughout the NHS in England.

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Working nurses in the CCU

Healthcare leaders are calling for legislation to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have called on the Government to clarify who is accountable for the nursing workforce and the chronic problems it’s currently facing.

Following ongoing pressure from nursing unions, the two organisations met today and recommend that the government should “revisit with partners whether national responsibilities and duties in relation to workforce functions are sufficiently clear.”

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With around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS in England and thousands more throughout social care, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) believes the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care should be legally accountable for the workforce.

Along with other health care leaders, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, written to the Government calling for the legislation proposed by NHS England and NHS Improvement to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

Staff shortages have reached ‘alarming levels’.

Responding to the news, Dame Donna Kinnair said: “We are pleased that NHS England and NHS Improvement has recognised the concerns of RCN members and the public and has stated that the issue of accountability for workforce planning and supply remains an area that needs be resolved.”

“In the week after we have launched a major public facing campaign calling for investment in the nursing workforce as well as for accountability to be clarified in the law, yet again, the case is made for this to be taken seriously.

“We are clear that government is well placed to determine how accountability can be clarified in law.

Adding; “Staff shortages have reached alarming levels with at least 40,000 vacant registered nurse posts in the NHS in England alone with thousands more vacancies in public health and social care.

“We now hope government will listen to this message, as well as the voices of the thousands of members that responded to the NHS England engagement process, and bring forward this legislation, taking the opportunity to include accountability in government and throughout the health and care system, for workforce planning and supply.”

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