- 22 July 2019
- 3 min read
Bursary is the key to solving the staffing crisis, according to our survey
In a recent survey we conducted, a huge 88% of our respondents wanted the bursary to be re-introduced. Will the government listen to the voices of nurses and bring it back?
A huge 88% of respondents to our Adult Nursing survey said the NHS staffing crisis can’t be solved without re-introducing the bursary.
This finding, one of many insights from a far-reaching survey that heard the views of 550 Nurses, is supported by many comments which echo the importance of the bursary in boosting trainee numbers.
A flawed policy
Nursing bursaries were scrapped in 2015 by then chancellor George Osbourne.
The logic behind the cut was that, because trainee places were capped according to how many bursaries could be afforded, cutting the bursary could actually boost numbers.
But in the first year that the removal of the bursary was introduced, trainee numbers fell by a huge 30%.
At a time when Nursing recruitment badly needed a shot in the arm, this was a dramatic failure. And the numbers haven’t recovered since.
Clearly, the policy was flawed. And the Nurses we’ve spoken to on the frontline think that reversing this policy is essential for the future of the NHS.
Our respondents regularly described the bursary as “essential” to “train and live” – and for many, “Bring back the Bursary” has become a rallying cry.
So the question is, is the government listening?
Petitions, discussions – but no firm answers
In October 2018 a parliamentary petition calling for Nursing bursaries to be reinstated rapidly received 13,000 signatures and nationwide attention.
But soon afterwards, the government confirmed there were no plans in place to bring it back.
However, as of July 2019, the bursary appears to be back on the parliamentary agenda. The NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said that a bigger pipeline of newly qualified Nurses is required, and that the debate about bursaries is therefore “back in play”.
Although this is clearly no guarantee of progress, it is important that the bursary is again being discussed. Because since 2015 and the subsequent drops in trainee numbers, the silence on the subject has been deafening.
Time to act
The government’s own plan to tackle the crisis, parts of which were leaked in May 2019, suggests that the current Nursing shortfall of 40,000 could widen to 68,500 by 2023-24 if nothing changes.
Our Adult Nursing survey on the staffing crisis – which you can read in its entirety here – demonstrates just how severe the impact at current vacancy levels is.
The impacts at 68,500 are therefore unthinkable.
Change is needed, and fast.
Time will tell if Simon Stevens’ words are hollow, or if the concerns of the Nurses we’ve spoken to are finally being heard