On the day that the Department of Health’s consultation on plans to reduce health bursaries closed, NUS-USI President Adrianne Peltz said the proposed cuts could have a devastating impact on our health service.
President of NUS-USI, Adrianne Peltz said: “This proposed cut to bursaries to nursing and midwifery students could have a devastating impact on our health service. These cuts could dissuade many people from applying to study these subjects and such a situation could potentially lead to shortages of nursing and midwifery staff. These students do a significant amount of work in hospitals which is essential to our health service during their placements as part of their studies, and therefore aren’t able to supplement income through other employment, so they need adequate bursaries to survive.
“These students currently receive under £7,000 annually, and given the level of work they do as student nurses every year in hospitals across Northern Ireland, even countenancing any cut is nothing short of disgraceful.
“The Health Minister is proposing to cut nurses’ already meagre bursary by £890 per year and he also wants to remove the one-off £190 allowances they get to pay for vital books and uniforms for their studies and work placements.
“It is patently obvious these cuts are just the start of a slash and burn policy on student bursaries from the Health Minister. The document itself even says that there will be another phase of the review. That essentially means that this is only the start of the cuts. Are we not already short of healthcare staff? Did our A&E unit at City Hospital not have to close de to lack of staff?
“The staff are the foundation stone of the world class health service that we enjoy, and this cut will destabilise the solid foundations of the NHS here.
“NUS-USI conducted research on the impact that cutting healthcare bursaries would have and our findings show that a significant proportion of nursing and midwifery students are women or have dependants. This is therefore not just an issue of funding but also of equality. We are trying to widen participation in higher education, yet cuts like these actually damage these efforts.
“Another fundamental flaw in these proposals is that they are due to come into force in the coming academic year. This is grossly unfair because people had already applied for nursing and midwifery courses before these plans were announced, and they have created worry and instability amongst applicants. I call on the Minister to scrap these proposals, and it is incumbent on Northern Ireland’s elected representatives to do all in their power to prevent these damaging cuts.”