Boris Johnson to revive nursing bursaries done away with under austerity

18 December 2019, 06:54

Boris Johnson made the pledge during the election campaign
Boris Johnson made the pledge during the election campaign. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Boris Johnson's government is set to restore bursaries for student nurses in a reversal of its austerity measures as the party seeks to hold onto its new voters.

The Prime Minister will hold a reception for NHS nurses on Wednesday as his Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announces the move.

The £8,0000 payments were a central point of the Conservative manifesto during the election campaign, and their return was part of their commitment to the NHS.

The return of the bursary was part of a plan for 50,000 additional nurses for England.

But critics have noted that about 19,000 would come through the retention of existing staff rather than new recruits.

Mr Hancock is to make the announcement in a Westminster speech for the Policy Exchange think-tank.

Downing Street said annual payments of £5,000 would be available to all student nurses - as well as some allied health professionals - from September next year, with a further £3,000 for specialist disciplines, such as mental health, which are hard to recruit.

At the same time, the Government confirmed it was pressing on with its review of the NHS pensions issue which lead some senior doctors to turn down extra shifts because they were being hit by hefty tax bills.

NHS England has previously announced special arrangements for 2019/20, meaning no doctor in England will be worse off as a result of taking on extra shifts this winter.

The Tories won their 80-strong majority by snatching dozens of former Labour strongholds across the North and the Midlands.

Mr Johnson said: "I have heard loud and clear that the priority of the British people is to focus on the NHS - and to make sure this treasured institution has everything it needs to deliver world-class care.

"There can be no doubting our commitment to the NHS and over the coming months we will bring forward further proposals to transform this great country."

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair welcomed the grant as "a first victory for the campaign that our student nurses are running".

"This announcement will hopefully encourage more people to apply to a nursing degree by the mid-January deadline," she added.

"In the run up to the Budget, we continue to call for our students to not pay tuition fees up front. Any barriers for people wanting to enter nursing must be removed."

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth welcomed the Tory reversal but called for further funding.

"The Conservative's policy of forcing would-be nurses to pay tuition fees has demonstrably failed in the last two years. While it is good to see that they have u-turned on their terrible policy position, nurses have called for additional funding to cover tuition fees too, not just living costs as the Tories promised in their manifesto," he said.

"The NHS is chronically short of staff, including over 40,000 nurses. The Tories now bear the burden of fixing the crisis in the NHS which ten years of their underfunding has created."