Student nurses in Wales will continue to receive NHS bursaries until 2020, the Welsh government has announced.
Health and Social Services Minister Vaughan Gething confirmed that the NHS Wales bursary scheme will be extended to nurses and midwives beginning their studies in the 2020-21 academic year.
Helen Whyley, Director of RCN Wales, said: “The RCN welcomes this announcement. However, yet again we have a one-year extension to an essential funding stream for undergraduate nursing programmes, and it cannot continue indefinitely.
“The funding of nurse education in Wales is essential to building a sustainable workforce and filling the significant nurse vacancies across Wales. A bursary funding stream encourages and supports students from all socio-economic backgrounds to come to Wales to study.”
Student nurses in Northern Ireland and Scotland still have access to bursaries, with the Scottish offering rising to £10,000 by 2020. In England, however, the bursary was abolished for nursing students beginning their courses in 2017 and beyond, prompting the RCN #FundOurFuture campaign.
Helen added: “We know from the experience in England that removing an NHS bursary has seen the numbers of mature students coming into nursing fall dramatically. While there is currently a strong supply of applicants for student places at Welsh universities, with the lowest drop-out rate in the UK, we can’t make the most of this offer when it continues to be so short term.”
Applications to study nursing in England have fallen by 30% since 2016, and more than 500 fewer students started nursing degrees last year.
RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “This is good news for prospective nursing students in Wales and will give more people the confidence to enter our profession. The abolition of the bursary in England has failed to increase the numbers as intended, and the prospect of debt is deterring students from choosing nursing.
“It’s time for the government in England to commit to investing at least £1 billion into nursing higher education to help recruit, educate and retain the new generation of nurses we need to deliver safe and effective staffing across the health and care system.”