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Students caught in loans fiasco may not receive full future payments

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Image: NursingNotes.co.uk

Eight hundred students of nursing and other healthcare courses have been told loan instalments expected next week will be reduced or withheld entirely due to overpayment errors.

The students have been told they will not receive full loan payments for the new academic term after overpayments ranging from £600 to £6,000 were made earlier in the year.

The administrative errors by the government-owned Student Loans Company (SLC) have left many concerned over rent and living costs for the next six months and some feel forced to quit their university courses.

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Universities minister Sam Gyimah revealed the total number of students known to be affected and confirmed twenty universities are involved – twice the number previously thought. The information was disclosed in a series of ministerial written answers to parliamentary questions asked by Conservative MP Gary Streeter.

The twenty universities are: Brunel University London; Cardiff University; Glyndwr University; Plymouth Marjon University; University of Brighton; University of Manchester; University of Southampton; University of Suffolk; University of West London; Leeds University; University of Essex; University of Bedfordshire; University of Worcester; Anglia Ruskin University; London Metropolitan University; University of Central Lancashire; University of Derby; University of Portsmouth; University of Reading; University of Salford.

Students who queried the amounts with the SLC earlier in the year received false reassurances the amounts were correct. The Royal College of Nursing has called on the Education Secretary to examine the issue with the SLC and use his statutory power to write off the amounts.

The largest overpayments were made to the poorest students – recipients of means-tested grants, often mature students without parental support and with children or caring responsibilities.

The errors came to light as the number of applications from would-be trainee nurses continued to fall. Yesterday, the UCAS revealed that the number of applications to university nursing courses in England has fallen by 5,000 students on the same point last year – risking a second fall in the number of trainees starting in September.

Rupert Davies, a nursing student in London, said: “On top of being a busy student nurse, I am also the main caregiver to two young children and I am worried about the devastating effect that a considerable reduction in payments will have on my family. Being told I had been overpaid by £2,700, and that this would be recovered from future payments, was a huge shock to me.

“Hospital placements and high childcare costs mean I am unable to take on extra paid work so I may have to consider whether or not I can remain on my course as a result of the error.”

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “When we face such significant nursing shortages, trainees should be supported and encouraged. The Government can ill-afford to have even more turn away from the profession.

“A sharp reduction in loan payments could have a catastrophic effect on limited student budgets and drive some to leave their studies.

“Nursing students should not be paying the price for this error, and the subsequent clumsy attempts to reclaim the overpayments. What makes this particularly galling is that those students who queried the payments were told they were correct.

“Ministers must use their power to resolve this fiasco, write-off the overpayments and protect students from further stress and disruption.”

Education

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

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

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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.

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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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Education

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.

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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.”

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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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