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Ministers rumoured to be reconsidering bursaries for some student nurses

The Government is looking to make the profession more attractive to undergraduates.



Group of nurses in meeting

Ministers are looking to boost the number of mature, mental health and learning disability nurses.

Ministers are rumoured to be considering introducing new financial incentives such as a bursary or grant for student nurses.

The number of unfilled nursing vacancies throughout the NHS in England has risen to a massive 40,000 since minsters cut the NHS Bursary and replaced it with a student loan system in 2015.


Following the removal of the NHS Bursary, the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) also reported an overall downturn in the total number of undergraduate applications with many universities being forced to turn to clearing in order to fill places.

Sources close to the issue confirmed to the Health Service Journal that ministers are looking at introducing a targeted cost of living grant, which could be between £3,000 and £5,000, in order to boost the recruitment of mature students alongside mental health and learning disability nurses.

‘Hopeful that an announcement will be made soon’.

Dr Katerina Kolyva, Executive Director for the Council of Deans, said that while there has been no formal announcement yet the Council  is “hopeful that an announcement will be made soon.”

Adding; “I confirm we are very closely involved to discussions with ministers and NHSE/I and have been working closely with the CNO and her team on providing our evidence to student funding.”

NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said: “The commitment towards greater financial support for nursing students would be extremely welcome if implemented.”

“It is particularly important for the NHS to increase the number of students training to become mental health and learning disability nurses. These courses have been hardest hit by lack of support for students. Moreover, they often work in community settings which suffer from significant staff shortages and insufficient capital investment,” she added.

Student loans ‘failed to deliver’ a boost to the nursing workforce.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said the college would welcome additional financial support for students after “the reforms of nursing higher education failed to deliver the boost to the nursing workforce the Government in England promised.”

She added that; “Since the nursing bursary was removed we have seen a 29% fall in the number of applications to nursing degree courses and 8% drop in the number of acceptances onto courses,”

“Without an immediate investment of at least £1bn a year into nursing higher education through tuition support and support for costs of living for students, the numbers won’t recover, let alone, increase the supply of nurses we need for the future.”

“There is a nursing workforce crisis in England, putting patient care at risk. Unless urgent action is taken by Government, the gap between the number of nurses we have and the number of nurses we need will get vaster, leaving staffing levels unsafe and increasing the risk of poor patient care.


One in six nursing associates drop out before qualifying, finds report

Despite this trainees showed “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”.



Group of nurses in meeting

Only 65% of trainee nursing associates said they planned to work as a nursing associate once qualified.

An independent evaluation of the nursing associate role commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) has found that while there are “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”, one in six nursing associates are dropping out before completing the course.

Attrition rates for trainee nursing associates fell slightly below that of student nurses, with 18% leaving before completing the course.


While ill health and personal issues were some of the most common reasons for leaving the programme, nearly a quarter (23%) withdrew because they failed to meet the academic requirements of the programme – with numeracy skills cited as a key issue.

One trainee said they found the “attitudes towards the role and the negative feedback about Nursing Associates” challenging.

Only 65% of trainees said they intend to continue working as a nursing associate once qualified as the programme is often seen as a stepping stone to becoming a registered nursing.

Highlighting challenges.

Mark Radford, Chief Nursing Officer, Health Education England said the report “highlights some challenges that we must address to ensure that students such as ensuring the quality and oversight of placements, attrition and numeracy support.”

“We also recognise that further work and research is required to ensure that the profession is supported and utilised in the workforce of health and social care as part of the MDT. I am pleased to be able to report that we are in the process of identifying candidates to be considered as NA ambassadors across England.

Commenting on the report, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said; “Having had the pleasure of meeting many nursing associates across the country, I am continually inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication for providing care and they should be very proud of the difference they make for the people they support.”

“I look forward to seeing how nursing associates continue to develop and be supported in their work, long into the future.”

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UCAS accused of having an ‘outdated’ view on nurses

They describe the nursing role to prospective students as looking after people when they are sick or injured.



Student Nurse Lecture Theatre

UCAS describes nurses as providing “support to doctors and other medical staff”.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has been accused of having an “outdated” view on nurses after it described the profession as providing “support to doctors and other medical staff”.

UCAS describes the nursing role to prospective students as looking after people when they are sick or injured. Adding; “You’ll provide support to doctors and other medical staff, take blood and urine samples, and in some cases, you may carry out minor surgical procedures.”


Nurses, alongside a multitude of other healthcare professionals, have taken to social media calling for the description to be amended so it “adequately reflects nursing in the 21st century”. They also criticised the article for failing to highlight a large number of health promotion and research roles frequently undertaken by the profession.

BJ Walto, a senior member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) commented that the description is “inaccurate, demeaning and totally misleading portrayal of nursing.”

Tom Wavlin, a Lecturer in Adult Nursing & Admissions Tutor at the University of Plymouth, suggested the description could instead read; “an autonomous practitioner of nursing who works closely with other healthcare professionals”.

In comparison, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) website reads; “Registered nurses play a vital role in providing, leading and coordinating care that is compassionate, evidence-based, and person-centred. They are accountable for their own actions and must be able to work autonomously, or as an equal partner with a range of other professionals, and in interdisciplinary teams.”

A spokesperson for UCAS said; “It’s clear that our current role profile for nurses doesn’t reflect the amazing work that nurses across the country do each day, and we welcome the feedback we’ve recently received.

“We want to make sure that students considering their future options have up-to date information about all different careers available to them.

“We’re currently updating all of our job profiles and are in touch with nursing experts to help us make sure that we better reflect the roles and responsibilities of nurses today.”

UPDATE (17/10/19 09:55): This article was updated to include a comment from UCAS.

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