The number of people applying for nursing courses at university has fallen again this year, as the sector starts to feel the bite of savage government cuts to student nurse bursaries.
Since bursaries were axed in 2016, the total number of nursing applications has nosedived by a third. This worrying trend looks set to continue, meaning real issues for nurses working on the front line – who are already having to compensate for the more than 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies across NHS England.
Bursary cuts the key factor in application shortages
This is not rocket science. Despite ivory tower analysis from the likes of academic Roger Watson, who claims student nurses don’t actually need bursaries because “nursing is not a vehicle for social engineering” and “we’ll get the most motivated students” (🤦) – it’s difficult to attribute the staggering fall in applications to any other factor.
Nursing and midwifery courses traditionally attract more students from lower-income backgrounds than your average university course. This means that for many, the bursaries were the deciding factor in whether to apply in the first place.
Without the bursary, the prospect of undertaking a nursing or midwifery degree at university – undoubtedly some of the most demanding courses going – becomes next to impossible for people who aren’t from privileged backgrounds. Last year, commenting on a similarly alarming drop in applications, Jon Skewes of the Royal College of Midwives, said:
“It seems a remarkable coincidence that this drastic fall in applications comes soon after the announcement that midwifery and nursing students are having their bursary scrapped.”
Department of Health and Social Care plan to scrap bursaries for post-grad nursing and midwifery too
Not that Jeremy Hunt and his minions give a shit about facts and reasonable arguments – in February he quietly slipped through plans to remove bursaries for post-graduate nurses and midwifery courses.
Indeed, the man who literally wrote a book on how to dismantle and privatise the NHS seems well on course to do so.
Either Mr. Hunt and his government are grossly incompetent, or this is part of a this is part of a deliberate attempt to drive the NHS into the ground in order to build public consensus for major moves toward privatisation over the next few years.