By Renaissance Care (Scotland) chairman ROBERT KILGOUR
At the Scottish National Party’s annual conference in October the First Minister announced that bursaries for student nurses, which were retained in Scotland after being scrapped south of the border, will be increased from just over £6,500 a year to £10,000 a year by the year 2020-21.
This will undoubtedly help Scotland attract more people into nursing as the recruitment challenge which already faces the health service and the care home sector becomes even more challenging in the wake of Brexit as many EU workers may go home. This in addition to replacing nurses choosing to retire or leave the profession.
I talk with particular knowledge of the care home sector as 30% of my company’s staff come from the EU and other overseas countries, and from the end of March we don’t know what rights they will have re continued employment or residency. The same applies to the NHS, and so both sectors need a pipeline of career orientated nurses coming into the profession.
Unfortunately, at a time when this need is increasing, the Westminster Government has gone down the road of telling English students thinking of entering the profession that instead of receiving a non-repayable bursary as in the past, they must instead take out a student loans that could amount to £50,000 debt by the time they qualify. Changes to the NHS bursary scheme in England were first proposed by then Chancellor George Osborne in November 2015, and when the proposal went to consultation the BMA warned that scrapping bursary support could harm recruitment rates among nurses.
The BMA said “This is likely to have a detrimental effect on the recruitment of staff who are not able or willing to accumulate significant debt. In turn, there would be a disproportionate effect on prospective students from lower socio-economic group, which will weaken the diversity of the NHS workforce” and added “we believe that fewer people will pursue health careers if facing a future saddled with debt”.
So there is little doubt that the Scottish Government deserves plaudits for getting this vitally important health issue right, with the UK Government disastrously wrong
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.