Trainee nurses and midwives are planning a major campaign against government plans to make them pay for their own training with student loans.
The industrial action comes in the context of learning that their earnings will be cut by nearly £1,000 annually.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced this measure in the Autumn Statement, and after consultation with union representatives, trainee nurses are ready to take action.
Osborne had announced that NHS bursaries, which are paid to student nurses to cover their living costs while studying, will be converted into formal student loans that will have to be repaid, depending on future earnings.
This will make it extremely difficult for people of modest means to enter the nursing profession.
And it contributes to an overall impression that studying at university is becoming prohibitively expensive, as well as something that incurs a huge amount of debt for most students.
Under the controversial reform, nurses will also have to pay £9,000-a-year student tuition fees for the first time.
This means that student nurses are expected to begin their careers in the NHS at least £50,000 in debt, with an immediate demand from the student loans company to begin paying off this amount.
The current starting salary for a nurse is £21,692 – rising to £22,799 by 2020, Meaning that the level of debt will be effectively 250 per cent of the average starting salary.
With the government plans causing a lot of anger among students, it has now been indicated that nurses will indeed protest strongly against these plans.
This is just the latest problem that the Conservative government has experienced with regard to NHS contracts, after similar industrial action was proposed by junior doctors.
Having encountered difficulties with both junior doctors and nurses, there is the overwhelming impression that the Conservative government is out of touch with the requirements and opinions of NHS rank and file.
The organiser of the nurses’ campaign is Danielle Tiplady, 29, who is in the final year of her nursing degree at King’s College London.
Tiplady outlined the financial situation for many people entering the nursing profession.
“People who have had children have told me they cannot afford to become nurses now – they cannot face that much money going out of their wage. It’s daunting having that much debt as well. We really contribute to patient care. It doesn’t just affect students, it affects the whole country because if you don’t have nurses, then who is going to look after people?”
Considering the plans of the Conservative government to switch to a seven-day NHS culture, it is clear that there is a real rift between reality and expectation.