Monday 15-02-2016 - 11:06
Last week NHS students came out in force in opposition to George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt’s draconian plans for the health sector – which will see nurses and other health professionals graduate with at least £51,600 in debt, to name just one of its flaws. We spoke to Danielle Tiplady - President of King’s College London Nursing and Midwifery Society - about the #BursaryOrBust campaign.
Tell us about your role as President of King's College London Nursing and Midwifery Society.
I became the president of the KCLNMS in September 2015. The society is formed to further student experience in university. We have put on a number of events including lectures, talks and socials and are responsible for the end of year party for nursing and midwifery students. I think this year has been a great success as we have put on a number of events with other societies. Since starting the campaign against the bursary cuts in December the society has also been directly involved in getting this off the ground.
What are the #BursaryOrBust campaign’s main asks and what did the week of action hope to achieve?
#BursaryOrBust is asking for the government to reverse the cuts to the NHS bursary immediately. The implications of the introduction of loans makes us feel fearful for the future workforce in the NHS and patient care. Who will pay £64,000 to work 2,300 hours? This is an abominable idea.
Coupled with the fact healthcare workers have not had a pay rise in line with the rise in living costs and have had their salary capped at a one per cent rise. The government are being very short sighted with their plans to remove the bursary, the evidence is there to say people will not train as healthcare workers. Healthcare courses should be for those who care and not those who can afford to do so. The government must rethink their actions and listen to us as frontline workers, the unions, patients for the best interests of the NHS.
The week of action was proposed as a way of gaining more momentum whilst having some fun (on some of the days). For example Monument Monday was a great success, students went around the UK tweeting photos of them with banners at various locations. Our biggest, most serious stand against the bursary changes occurred with the one hour walk out to defend the bursary and show solidarity to the junior doctors. Without healthcare students the NHS would fall apart, we are the glue that holds it together particularly in the current chronic underfunding of the health service which sees skeleton staffing on wards and the government need to realise how important and valuable NHS students are. We did this to make the government understand that we are not going to give up in trying to win the bursary for the future of the NHS.
During the day students also tweeted us (@NHSbursarycuts) with their badges, lanyards, leaflets and at the pickets with the hash tag #BursaryOrBust. We decided to plan this on the same day as the doctors because we felt it was essential to show unity through these times of austerity in the NHS. We must show solidarity to one another if we want to win back our NHS for our patients and our professions.
How beneficial have NHS Bursaries been for you and your fellow nursing students during your degrees?
The bursary is a lifeline to us all. As healthcare students we work up to 46 hour weeks clinical placement and when we are in university we are always under pressure. We have lectures for most days of the week and an academic degree to fit into one and a half years. Whilst on placement we do nights, weekends, 12.5 hour shifts with our mentors and we are incredibly dedicated. We deserve our bursary and to take it away is actually very insulting. Without my bursary there is no way I would have been able to reach my dreams of studying nursing at King's College London as I would have been too daunted by the prospect of the loans.
How did you feel about Jeremy Hunt’s comments aimed at Junior Doctors during his recent interview on BBC’s ‘The Marr Show’?
Jeremy Hunt’s comments saying the BMA are scaremongering are ludicrous. They have been willing to negotiate with him and have called off strike action twice to do so. In actual fact he is attempting to scaremonger the public into going against the doctors. However everyone is aware of the fact Jeremy Hunt is risking patient care and safety through the contracts by making doctors work longer hours with 30 per cent less pay and that he is pushing the NHS into deeper crisis for doing so.
Public support for the campaign is ever-increasing, do you feel this will help you to save the bursary?
I think people are starting to see the bigger picture and that actually the removal of the bursary is just another step in the governments aims to set the NHS up to fail and sell it off. Not only this but everyone sees how incredibly hard NHS students work and understand how we deserve the little bursary we get. I think with public support we can definitely win this and we are very grateful for everything everyone has done for us!
Finally, how would you like to see the wider public support the campaign and what can students and students’ unions in particular do to help?
The bursary campaign is only just beginning, I can see this becoming bigger as I know this will not be an overnight win. The bursary is being consulted at the end of February and it is essential everyone lobbies their MPs and support the campaign. We will be working on more action and will be hosting an open meeting everyone is welcome to come too! Furthermore, the People’s Assembly 'March for health, homes, jobs and education' on 16 April will be right in the middle of the consultation and we call on every single person in the UK to join us in standing against the bursary cuts.
Please check out our NHS bursary cuts forum Facebook group, follow us on Twitter at @NHSbursarycuts and tweet your support using #BursaryOrBust.