Loans for stu­dent nurses will cost us all dear

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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

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