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The NHS bursary for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in Wales has been extended until 2023, it has been announced.
Health minister Vaughan Gething today promised that the bursary would be available for an additional two cohorts for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years.
“Extending the bursary will help us to attract more people to the workforce”
However, nursing leaders have told Nursing Times they are “disappointed” that it is only a “short-term” extension and not a permanent solution.
While the bursary was scrapped in England in 2017, for Wales it will continue to be available for healthcare students who commit to working in the country for up to two years after qualifying.
Those who cannot commit in advance to working in Wales are still able to study by taking out a loan.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, students who receive a bursary but fail to work for at least two years in the country are required to pay back at least £25,500 in fees. Those who drop out of courses will also need to repay their bursary.
Mr Gething said: “Extending the bursary until 2023 demonstrates our commitment to training and will help us to attract more people to the NHS Wales workforce.
“Wales will offer a full package for those who commit to working in Wales for up to two years after qualifying.
“The extension demonstrates how much we value our healthcare workforce and will support them through their studies to create a sustainable future workforce.”
As part of its announcement, the Welsh Government said over the next few years it would “undertake a comprehensive exercise to establish the best and most appropriate way of continuing to support those who choose to study health care related programmes in Wales”.
“We welcome the extension, but we are disappointed it’s short-term”
However, Royal College of Nursing Wales said such exercises had already been carried out and that it was clear that the NHS bursary route was the “preferred funding stream” for students in the country.
Helen Whyley, director of RCN Wales, told Nursing Times: “We do welcome the extension of an NHS bursary package, but we are disappointed to see yet another short-term extension to these arrangements.
“Over the past few years the Welsh Government has undertaken a number of consultations and recently did an engagement event with students and organisations on the NHS bursary.”
She told Nursing Times it was therefore “even more disappointing” to hear that the government had plans to undertake a comprehensive exercise to determine the most appropriate way to support students.
“It feels like they don’t want to hear what they’re being told in these consultations, which is that the NHS bursary scheme should remain as an option for funding of undergraduate programmes in Wales,” said Ms Whyley.