The Department of Health has confirmed plans to end bursaries for student nurses and midwives in 2017.

The report states student nurses and midwives will have to take out means-tested loans from the student loans company, instead of having their course fees paid by Health Education England and receiving a bursary. This is despite many healthcare students being mature students, who may already have debt from a previous degree or childcare costs.

The Department of Health claim replacing bursaries with loans would free around £800 million a year to create additional nursing roles by 2020 and help more students enter the profession.

The government-funded Health Education England decides how many student places are available each year for nursing, midwifery and allied health, including occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, podiatry and radiography. The government claims by replacing bursaries with loans this will allow the cap on student numbers to be lifted, creating up to 10,000 extra training places.

Health minister Philip Dunne said, “currently two thirds of people who apply to university to become a nurse are not offered a place – we are committed to plans which could create up to 10,000 training places for home-grown nurses, midwives and allied health professionals by the end of this parliament, with those in training getting around 25% more financial support while they study.

We’ve listened to feedback from the consultation and as a result will provide extra funding to help cover additional expenses like travel and more support for students with children. We will work with the RCN, hospitals and other partners in taking this forward.”

Jon Skewes of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said the midwifery body “unequivocally condemns” the decision. “We have grave concerns for the future of maternity services and the midwifery profession in England as a result,” he added.

“Ministers have made minor concessions on the cost of placements and hardship, but this does not compensate for the large debts that midwifery students will experience and is not sufficient.”

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