How has the removal of the NHS bursary impacted staff recruitment?

Since August 2017 anyone who has wanted to train as a Radiographer or go in to any other allied healthcare profession has no longer had access to an NHS bursary. Previous students had benefitted from paid tuition fees, and access to bursaries to help with living costs as they study. The government has argued that replacing these bursaries with loans would free up around £800 million a year to create additional nursing roles by 2020 and allow more spaces for students to study these courses at university as previously these numbers were limited by what the NHS could afford. The NHS certainly does need more staff, in March 2017 there were 30,163 full time unfilled vacancies.

However, there are some obvious questions that are being raised. One of them being, with the high costs of university, and stagnant pay within the NHS, can they really tempt so many new people to train within these professions without the bursary? Healthcare is a very demanding line of work, and with poor financial incentives it’s going to get harder and harder to recruit people. Students in England are reported to be coming out of university with £50,000 worth of debt, which I’m sure leads to a lot of people considering whether its worth attending university. I’m sure a lot of people are also familiar with stories of nurses being forced to use food banks and take out loans. A report had found that nurses’ pay had plummeted in real terms by 14% over the last six years.

The removal of the NHS bursary also makes it harder for mature students to re train. They often have families and other commitments and without the NHS bursary, they simply can’t afford to go to university for three years.

So could we recruit from abroad? Unfortunately, it would seem not. Since the U.K voted to leave the EU it has been reported that the number of nurses and midwives coming to work in the U.K from Europe has decreased by 89%, and I’m sure the figures are similar for Radiographers and other healthcare professionals. If you add this to the many U.K trained healthcare professionals leaving for higher paid jobs abroad, it makes for very bad reading.

As you would expect the removal of the NHS bursary has led to fewer applicants to study healthcare courses. According to UCAS the number of applicants to study nursing in September 2018 has fallen by 13 per cent when compared to the previous year. Something has to change rapidly if we’re going to avoid further staffing shortages in the UK. Government policy clearly isn’t having the desired affect and there has to be some sort of financial incentive reintroduced to persuade people to train in healthcare. When I was picking what to study at university the NHS bursary was certainly a big influence, and without it I’m not sure I would be a Radiographer.

Provided by: Stephen Marshall