Thank you for contacting me about changes to the health education system.
However, I too agreed that nurses are pivotal to our valued NHS and everyone with the qualifications and commitment to undertake a nursing degree should have the chance to do so. The current system prevents this as degree places and bursaries are paid for by the NHS and the number of places is limited according to what the NHS needs and, more realistically, can afford in the short term.
I am aware that these limits currently prevent two in every three young people who wish to pursue a nursing degree from doing so. That is why the Government is creating a fairer system by opening up access to nursing, midwifery and associated health subjects. No longer will so many students who wish to undertake a nursing degree be advised to follow another degree instead – one which is not their first choice and for which they will have to pay tuition fees.
In order to deliver more nurses and health professionals for the NHS, a better funding system for health students and a more sustainable model for universities, it is necessary to move health students’ grants and bursaries onto the standard student support system – in line with all other degrees. This will not affect existing students. This change will be introduced for new students only from September 2017.
I understand completely the concerns of those regarding the removal of the NHS bursary and appreciate that a nursing or midwifery degree involves more hospital based work experience.
Nevertheless, this change is expected to deliver up to 10,000 additional nursing and other health professional training places over the next five years. This is a huge advantage to the NHS, which presently has had to rely on expensive agency nurses and staff from overseas in order to compensate for a lack of UK-trained professionals.
At the same time, the Government recognises that nursing students in particular often have unique circumstances. Under the BIS student support system, health students will receive 25 per cent more financial support whilst they study than at present. Universities will also be in a stronger financial position to be able to invest in increasing the number of student places to meet the demand.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.