Some of the most important health sector unions are warning that plans to scrap student bursaries in the nursing sector could cause massive problems in the foreseeable future.
The government had unveiled plans to charge nurses and other health staff for their degrees in England some months ago.
Ministers plan to overhaul the funding system in September 2017 and charge those studying to be frontline health workers for their degrees.
But the Royal College of Nursing and Unison believe that the new financial plans are disincentivising people from joining the nursing profession, and could diminish what is already a significant shortage in this key aspect of the health service.
Student nurses, midwives and staff such as physiotherapists will be affected by the plans, but the nursing profession is already known to be particularly short of numbers in the NHS.
In support of their opinion on the matter, Unison and the National Union of Students commissioned research group London Economics to analyse the potential impact of the government’s scheme.
And London Economics concluded that the decision made by the Conservative government could have a massive impact on the number of people entering the nursing profession.
Based on modelling, it was concluded that the numbers starting courses could drop by about 6.5% from 31,000 a year to 29,000.
Royal College of Nursing general secretary Janet Davies voiced her concerns on the subject, and encourage the government to rethink its plans for bursaries.
“Our members tell us that the fees could put people off, particularly older students who come into nursing later on. They are very important for the diversity of the workforce. This seems a risky move at a time when we are short of staff.”
The report comes at an extremely inconvenient time for the government, as another report by the Public Accounts Committee recently warned that the NHS is already short of 50,000 frontline staff.
Not only is there this shortage of personnel, but it is now that the demand for health services will increase in the coming years due to the greying population of the UK.
The aforementioned Davies called for a full risk assessment of the potential impact of the bursary plan, intimating that it would have a profound impact on the way that nursing operates in the National Health Service.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea was in agreement with the verdict of the Royal College of Nursing.
“This could make an already difficult situation much worse. With too few staff on the wards, the impact on patient safety could well be disastrous.”