Nursing students stepped up when they were needed in hospitals. Now their unions are calling for the government to scrap their tuition fees. This would complete the reversal of the disastrous decision in 2017 to cut support for student nurses and midwives, which contributed greatly to the current shortage of nurses.
Unions representing nurses, midwives and allied healthcare professionals are calling on the government to improve support during their training. This would recognise their contribution during the current coronavirus crisis and make a material difference to them. By abolishing future tuition fees and introducing student living grants, the government could start to tackle the shortage of nurses and others entering the medical professions.
On 6 May the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, Unison and the National Union of Students wrote to the health secretary Matt Hancock. They have yet to receive an answer to their proposals. These were: to reimburse tuition fees already paid and forgive loan debts for current students; abolish the fees for all new students; and to introduce living maintenance grants.
Donna Kinnair, head of the RCN, said: “Before the pandemic, we had witnessed the devastating impact the removal of the bursary had on student nurse numbers…This is a major reason why the nursing workforce in England entered the COVID-19 crisis with almost 40,000 unfilled posts.”
• A longer version of this article is on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk.