The UK government has stated that it intends to introduce tuition fees and loans for student nurses.
This new policy will enable those studying to become nurses to cover their existing living expenses.
The decision of the government will undoubtedly be considered a controversial plan, as it will leave student nurses facing debts of around £65,000 each.
Predictably, the Royal College of Midwives has been extremely critical of the plans.
The organisation which represents midwives across the UK has suggested that young women are already disincentivised from joining the profession due to financial reasons.
Jon Skewes of the Royal College of Midwives Stated that “many midwives already make huge personal and financial sacrifices and now the burden of future debt will exclude many fantastic potential midwives”.
The college added that it believed that the new funding scheme would deter many nurses from taking up places in the future.
On Wednesday, the Chancellor announced plans to expand the number of training places for nurses, in a bid to plug growing shortages, promising an extra 10,000 places by 2020.
George Osborne indicated that the scheme would ultimately be funded by the replacement of the existing system of bursaries.
The scrapping of this system would raise in the region of £800 million.
However, the Royal College of Midwives has suggested that it believes the scheme will involve funding schemes for students, effectively leaving them liable for costs of £9,000 per annum in tuition fees.
This figure would be additional to the £12,000 pounds per year required to cover living costs.
The aforementioned Skewes continued: “Quite often after CSR announcements such as this, the dust settles and you can see the small print. Today the RCM has unearthed the true cost to now train as a midwife in the UK and it is most unsettling. Our understanding as of today is student midwives and nurses will now also be saddled with seeking a loan for both their student support and tuition fees. The combined cost could potentially burden student midwives with a debt of £65,000 for a three year degree programme.”
Skewes went on to question whether the profession would be able to attract as many midwives in the future.
“These plans are appalling and will deter great future midwives that the NHS so badly needs. Many midwives already make huge personal and financial sacrifices and now the burden of future debt will exclude many fantastic potential midwives.”
Janet Davies, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nurses also expressed concern.
“Anything which deters people from entering the nursing profession puts the future of the NHS in jeopardy. It is hard to imagine that potential nurses, including those who may be older and have commitments such as mortgages, will not be deterred. They could be presented with the prospect of a debt which is more than double their expected salary.”
While the Department of Health defended the decision, the general consensus of opinion is that this will be a major burden to people wishing to enter midwifery.
It is perhaps indicative of a generally hostile government policy towards NHS workers in general, also illustrated by the furore over the ongoing junior doctors’ contract dispute.