As the Government pledges to find 10,000 more nurses and increase the number of midwifery and allied health professionals within the NHS by 2020, Dr Paula Holt explains how the new funding system should enable more people to take the undergraduate route into these rewarding careers.
There has been a great deal of controversy over the Government’s announcement to scrap the bursary which paid university fees and gave a monthly grant to student nurses and health professionals while they learned.
The Government has decided that from August 1, 2017, the bursary will no longer exist. Instead, students will have access to tuition fee loans and grants like other undergraduates.
While the announcement has been deemed irresponsible by some unions and charities, the Government has pledged the changes will create more than 10,000 student nurse places. This will allow a greater number of people access to pre-registration nursing programmes which, in turn, will help to secure the health care workforce.
This March is the last time you can study an Adult Nursing degree at the University of Derby with an NHS bursary. The change in funding also affects degrees in Mental Health, Diagnostic Radiography and Occupational Therapy.
So, what does that mean for those who are applying to start in September?
Lots of people worry about whether university is affordable. And the answer is: yes.
Graduates don’t have to pay money upfront. The tuition and living costs loans work like a tax on earnings above a certain amount, not like a commercial or payday loan. With all nursing graduates from Derby securing a job, the investment is certainly worth it.
Paying back the loan
Under the current rules, graduates only start paying back the loans when they earn above £21,000. That means if they started working on a Band 5 salary in the NHS of £21,700, they would repay £5.25 per month. This is a minimal amount in comparison to the value of obtaining a degree which offers high-quality teaching and a career for life.
The loans are paid automatically straight from the pay packet, meaning no hassle for the newly-qualified professionals.
Students also don’t have to get involved in the student loan process. When they make an application to the student Loans Company, the tuition fees are transferred automatically.
The new changes have been a stark change to the way universities and the NHS have previously worked. What needs to be considered is that students should not be disadvantaged. In actual fact, under the student support system, some grants are more generous than in the past.
Grants and means-tested loans
Students are eligible for a range of means-tested loans. This includes a specific loan designed to support students on courses that have a longer than average student year. There are also special allowances for students, for example, for childcare, adult dependents and parents’ learning. These are all grants, not loans, so they don’t need to be repaid.
Career prospects for nurses and health students
Taking up a student loan should not be a barrier for students wanting to work in health care professions. These are fantastic, satisfying and fulfilling careers that offer secure employment in a wide variety of health and care settings.
The new Government changes open up the doors for more students to access the career they have always wanted, lifting the restrictions and previous caps on numbers the bursary system imposed.