I have recently received several emails from nursing students in Lewisham Deptford regarding investment in nursing higher education.
I share their concerns regarding the NHS workforce shortage and I agree with them that Government reforms to higher education, which includes removing the student nurse bursary, have failed. UCAS data also shows that applications for nursing degrees have fallen in each year since the bursary was scrapped, while Department for Education research has shown that women, BAME and mature students are the most likely to have been affected by these cuts.
I believe that every person who wants to access higher education should be able to. That’s why, at the General Election last year, I stood on a manifesto that pledged to restore NHS bursaries and scrap university tuition fees.
Nurses, midwives, and other healthcare professions work long hours, often in difficult circumstances and deserve the appropriate appreciation and support. It is therefore disappointing that rather than investing in healthcare students and protecting their bursaries – which help with living costs and tuition fees as many struggle to find the time for part-time jobs – student nurses are now being asked to pay to train to work in the NHS.
MPs debated an Opposition motion in May calling on the Government to reverse its decision and ensure that our education system is fair and sustainable. While I and Labour colleagues of mine voted for the motion, the Government voted against it and it was therefore unfortunately defeated.
There are 107,000 vacancies across the NHS, including 41,000 nurses and midwives. Yet Chancellor ignored this in the budget in October, with no plans to reinstate the nurse bursary or address NHS staffing levels.
Alongside my Labour colleagues, I will continue to press Ministers to reinstate the student nurse bursary and invest in nursing higher education to ensure the NHS can recruit the workforce it needs for the future.