The chief of the Royal College of Nursing has accused Health Minister Jeremy Hunt of being “hell-bent” on cutting the number of nurses after his Department of Health and Social Care announced that postgraduates will no longer be exempt from tuition fees.
From August 2018 postgraduate nurses, midwives and “allied health professional students” will have to take out student loans to cover their costs.
Bursaries for undergraduate nurses were abolished last year – a move that was followed by a 23 per cent slump in the number of applications by students in England to nursing and midwifery courses at British universities.
Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN, said: “At a time when the shortage is so great, another short-sighted announcement cuts off a way of getting more nurses.
“It goes against everything the Secretary of State has said on the urgent need to boost numbers in training and fill the vacant registered nurse jobs in the NHS.
“With the help of bursaries, the fast-track programme allows graduates of other subjects to retrain as a nurse and join the NHS in just two years.
“The Government must expand this route, not restrict it. Graduates with existing student debt will not be falling over themselves to take out more.
“The Government seems hell-bent on reducing the supply of talent into nursing and this move calls into question its commitment to grow the nursing workforce.”