Healthcare students have spoken. If the government wants to keep us, it must revamp the system

Student nurses, midwives and healthcare students have called on the next government to overhaul the system: Getty

We note the various manifesto pledges from many of the political parties in relation to the funding available for student nurses, midwives and allied healthcare students in England. However, a new funding system must go beyond the limitations of the previous system to ensure a funding package able to rectify the current crises.

As representative bodies for those students, we are united in saying that these commitments need to go further, and we’re calling for urgent, holistic and meaningful action to be taken on the issue of healthcare student funding in England by the next government.

The abolition of the funding package available to nursing, midwifery and allied health students in 2017 means that we are now training far too few nurses, midwives and allied health professionals for our health and care system.

In many of our professions, the number of students and applicants has dropped, while demand for their skills continues to grow rapidly. There are currently 100,000 vacancies across the NHS and as long as students are not supported, there is no hope of solving the crisis.

Students now pay tuition fees from loans and no longer receive maintenance grants. Our members, therefore, spend long and difficult hours learning on placement in the health and care system without non-repayable financial support.

Many of our once proudly diverse professions have become less so. Some socio-economic groups and mature students in particular have been deterred by the funding changes. Smaller but vitally important professional groups such as mental health nursing, learning disability nursing, podiatry and therapeutic radiography have been badly affected and the resulting skills shortage has contributed to a highly pressurised environment that is not conducive to high-quality care or patient safety.

Students in England studying healthcare courses today are often struggling with living costs and dropping out as a result. Their wellbeing is jeopardised by a system which provides insufficient financial support and frequently forces them to undertake part-time work alongside their intensive studies. In addition, students face the impact of having to fund placement expenses upfront a hardship fund system that isn’t fit for purpose, and some students such as paramedic science students cannot access reimbursements for placement expenses at all.

Our members, our health and care system, and the public, need change.

The undersigned call upon political parties and candidates – if they are elected – to commit to a radical overhaul of the current system in England that:

* abolishes the current student loan system of tuition fees for nursing, midwifery and allied health students and replaces it with a comprehensive system of tuition fee relief

* introduces universal, living maintenance grants

* ensures the adequate and fair provision of placement expenses for all

* formulates a holistic strategy to reverse falling healthcare student numbers and applications and improves student welfare and retention in order to meet the workforce pressures in the health and care system.

Eva Crossan Jory, vice-president welfare, National Union of Students
Dave Prentis, general secretary, Unison
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Gill Walto, chief executive, Royal College of Midwives
Steve Jamieson, chief executive, College of Podiatry
Richard Evans, chief executive officer, Society and College of Radiographers

Success and socialism

As an intrigued, yet relatively inexperienced entrant to the world of politics, could any of your readers point me in the direction of a successful socialist government who left the economy and country in a better state than when they took office? I’ve been researching the history books, but I’m yet to find an answer. Could you help me?

N Rowles

Interesting how the Conservatives announce both tax cuts and increased public spending on health, education and policing. Rudimentary economics dictates you cannot have both. Yet, while media commentators and various think tanks question literally every penny of Labour’s spending plans, no such rigour appears to be applied to the Conservatives. Why is this, especially given the debts racked up over the past nine years in the name of austerity?

Paul Donovan
London E11

Winter warmers

At some point today, you may have walked passed one of the almost 9,000 people who will sleep on the streets of London tonight.

Last winter, as freezing temperatures hit Britain, a small group of friends put a rail outside a London church with some warm clothes on it. Beside the rail, we hung a sign which read: “If you’re cold, take one. If you can help, leave one.” By the afternoon the clothes rail was full. People living and working locally had donated jackets and coats as well as gloves, hats, scarves and blankets and homeless people were helping themselves to whatever they needed.

As temperatures across the UK plummet again, the #TakeOneLeaveOne rail is back and similar rails are appearing nationwide

There are currently 320,000 people homeless in the UK and 726 rough sleepers died on our streets in 2018. While the clothes rails on high streets may offer some respite for rough sleepers in the coming months, it will not address the root causes of homelessness. What is needed is government action.

In Finland, homelessness was eliminated through its “housing first” policy which offers people who need them permanent places to call home. It shows that ending homelessness is not a utopian dream. All that is needed the will to act.

Stefan Simanowitz
London NW3

Terror and the PM

This isn’t a hypothetical question. Neither is it a rhetorical one. I refer to the brutal reality of recent events on the streets of London.

It begs the question: who as prime minister would represent the instinctive revulsion of the British people at such acts of hatred?

Natalie Webber

Fuel fairness

If the AA thinks that supermarkets are discriminating against poorer motorists by only passing on fuel savings to shoppers who spend at least £40 in store, one could also say those moves arguably discriminate against the elderly, the disabled, those without cars, low mileage drivers, singletons, those with a full tank, those on holiday the following week, the forgetful and those who are just very busy.

Nigel Fox
Leamington Spa

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