Loans for student nurses will cost us all dear
AFTER the Autumn Statement, I’m left wondering whether anyone can save our National Health Service. Jeremy Hunt has alienated 98 per cent of the country’s junior doctors and now George Osborne’s proposals to scrap student nurse bursaries and replace them with loans, which nurses will have to pay back when they qualify, will sound the death knell on plans by anyone considering a career in nursing. Nurses just don’t earn the sort of money other university graduates do to be able to pay off that kind of debt. I now know I’m one of the luckiest nurses still surviving in today’s NHS because I trained in the mid-Seventies, when student nurses received a salary and my name appeared on the duty rota as an integrated member of the ward team, unlike student nurses today who are supernumerary. Last week, I worked with a student nurse who is going back to college and will be there until May. Was the training I was given back then so bad compared with what we have now? How has nursing come to this? I can only liken my training 40 years ago to a modern apprenticeship: it was predominantly hands-on, with some classroom study — not perfect, but nevertheless I’m still here to tell the tale. We’re in a desperate need of more nurses, but all I’ve seen by successive governments are measures making the profession less and less attractive for people even to consider as a career. None has been more so than the last Coalition government, who thought it a good idea to cut nurse training even though the population needing to use the NHS was — and still is — getting larger and older by the day. Even Labour, when in power and perceiving itself as the rightful custodian of the NHS, failed to implement the Agenda For Change designed to improve nurses’ pay, particularly those who just wanted to be a bedside nurse — it was finally deemed too expensive. Fast-forward to today and what do we have? Vacancies filled by agencies and locums earning huge sums of money. It was always supposedly seen as a shortterm fix, but the staffing crisis is now costing the NHS and the taxpayer millions for the foreseeable future.
MARY JONES, Worcester.
Mary Jones: Lucky to have trained in the Seventies