College steps in over NHS crisis

Apprenticeships could be the way for people to enter the profession
Apprenticeships could be the way for people to enter the profession
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Apprenticeships could replace bursaries as gateway to nursing

‘Incredible’ future nurses are considering different careers because of an end to training bursaries, according to a leading college.

New nursing and midwifery students no longer get NHS bursaries to support them during training.

The change came into force on August 1 and Elaine Delahunt, Head of College, from Wigan UTC, said its impact was already being felt.

“Our students regularly tell us of their concerns about the costs of a potential degree and their fears as to how they might pay for it in the future,” said Elaine.

“This has particular impact on our less well-off students and is causing a number of students who would make incredible nurses to look to other careers.”

Wigan UTC has a dedicated Care Academy offering BTEC, A-levels, professional qualifications and extensive placements with health and social care partners.

Students studying at the Care Academy will successfully go on to a range of careers – including nursing and midwifery.

However, Elaine said the prospect of years of debt was making some reconsider their future careers or look at alternatives to university.

“I think it will definitely cause students to consider other routes into nursing rather than the standard degree.

“It may also be that we lose future nurses to other sectors as they consider their future earning potential may be higher within these different roles.

“The cost of living isn’t going down, so for young students thinking about their future, they will be aiming for higher paid jobs when finishing university simply in order to be able to afford to live.”

The government said bursary funding reforms would ‘help to secure the healthcare workforce’.

In its policy paper on the changes the department of health said ending bursaries would allow universities to offer up to 10,000 extra training places on pre-registration healthcare programmes.

It also said loans would offer students ‘around 25% more financial support while studying’ and give students with an existing qualification the chance to get funding for a second degree.

However, Elaine said the end of bursaries would have a ‘negative impact’ on recruitment – adding to a wider crisis within the NHS.

“The average earnings of a qualified nurse aren’t high enough to support paying back the student loans that now come with a nursing degree.

“With the introduction of nursing degree apprenticeships and these becoming a more generalised offer within many different universities, students will inevitably choose this route into nursing rather than a straight degree.

“When you then bring into question the uncertainty around Brexit and the implications that will have on the NHS workforce partnered with asking students to pay for their nursing degree, it seems almost inevitable that universities will struggle to recruit nurses leaving our NHS in a very difficult predicament.

“With almost half the nursing workforce of the current NHS being eligible for retirement in 2020 and less students taking up a nursing degree due to the cost, it will put the NHS in a real workforce crisis in the coming years.”

Elaine said hospital apprenticeships could help plug the gap – but trusts needed to act quickly.

“Hospital trusts are now recognising this potential crisis and introducing apprenticeships to support their own workforce planning, it’s just a case of ensuring these are being offered as quickly as possible so that we don’t lose future nurses to the cost of a degree.

“It will mean that the apprenticeships will become a lot more competitive and it is still unclear how many will be offered and what roles these will cover.

“Hopefully these will help to recruit a future workforce for the NHS and help hospital trusts to better retain their staff.”

With a curriculum developed and supported by local universities and hospital trusts, studying at Wigan UTC will help you to achieve the qualifications, skills and experiences you need to move to a job, apprenticeship or university place.

For more information on its specialised Care Academy, visit www.wiganutc.org