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We must continue to apply pressure on student bursaries

 Cecilia Anim CBE 17 Jun 2016 Cecilia Anim

Show the Government it’s time for a rethink, says RCN President Cecilia Anim.

Cecilia Anim

On 4 June I joined hundreds of RCN members on the streets of London to protest against changes to student funding in England.

I was struck by two things. Firstly, the diversity of people marching – young and old; doctors and nurses; midwives, health care assistants and retirees. Many protesters had no connection to health care, but everyone I met was convinced that these changes are bad for nursing and patients.

Moving through the crowd, I asked past and present students about the importance of their bursary, and I was moved by the answers I received.

‘My life’, ‘everything’, ‘the difference between a good month and a bad month’.

There were more tangible answers too: ‘My petrol to get me to placement’, ‘textbooks’. A single parent told me she uses her bursary to pay for childcare.

It confirmed what I knew already. Nursing students are unique.

Half their time is spent in clinical practice. They have longer terms and fewer opportunities to take on part-time work. And thousands of mature students apply each year, many of whom already have a degree.

These reasons, and many more, help to explain why student funding is so closely linked to attracting people into the profession.

They explain why, in a survey of over 17,000 people, two thirds said they would not have become a nurse under the new funding plans.

They explain why the RCN is concerned about the potential impact of significant debt on those from BME backgrounds or different socio-economic groups.

Questions too, about placements and mentorships, remain unanswered, but it’s not too late to voice your dissatisfaction.

The consultation on student funding will close on 30 June. I urge you to respond, and in particular to answer question 14.

We must continue to apply pressure and show the Government it’s time for a rethink.

Cecilia Anim

Cecilia Anim CBE

RCN President

@cisanim

Cecilia works as a clinical nurse specialist in sexual and reproductive health in London and specialises in family planning and aspects of women's health. She was elected RCN President in 2015, having been a member for more than 30 years, and made a CBE in the 2017 New Year honours.