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Unions have collaborated once again to ask ministers to review the funding arrangements for nursing students in England who have helped during the pandemic.
A letter addressed to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock was sent at the beginning of the month outlining their demands, but a response has not yet been received.
“It’s high time the government got behind student nurses by providing full tuition fee support and maintenance grants”
Unions have asked for a reimbursement for tuition fees, or removal of current student debt for all current nursing, midwifery and allied health students.
They also called for the abolishment of student-funded tuition fees for all future students and the introduction of a universal cost-of-living grant that was reflective of students’ needs.
Headed by the Royal College of Nursing, the letter was also signed by the Royal College of Midwives, National Union of Students and Unison.
Mike Adams, RCN director for England, said: “The vital work student nurses have been doing throughout the pandemic has demonstrated the huge contribution nursing undergraduates make to our health and care services – neither they nor future students should have to pay tuition fees to do this.
“The government must do all it can to ensure that anyone who wants to study to become a nurse is able to do so. No-one should feel they can’t become a nurse because they can’t afford it.”
Before the pandemic, the UK was struggling with shortages of nurses equating to almost 40,000 unfilled vacancies in England’s NHS sector alone.
Mr Adams added that only by increasing the number of nursing students would the workforce be able to provide safe and effective care.
Chair of the RCN Students Committee, Jessica Sainsbury, said: “It’s high time the government got behind student nurses by providing full tuition fee support and maintenance grants covering the true cost of living for all nursing students in England, both now and in the future.
“Any student who is in debt due to their nursing education should have their debt dropped.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are grateful to all students who choose to support our NHS during this extremely difficult time and we have guaranteed that all students who do opt in to paid placements are rewarded fairly for their hard work.
“We urge others to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”