Staffordshire nursing students have hit out at Government plans to cut their grants.
George Osborne revealed in his Autumn statement all student nurses will stop receiving bursaries, in the hope that it will save up to £800m a year for the government.
It means students on nursing awards will have to take out loans to pay for their tuition fees.
Chloe Robinson, 20, from Stafford, is in her second year of nursing.
She said: “I’m currently studying adult nursing and I am devastated at the news.
“I believe there will be a drop in the number of people applying to do the course, leading to a decrease in the number of nurses in the future.”
Many existing student nurses and midwives are concerned the cuts will lead to a drop in people studying the courses.
Miss Robinson added: “We have to do 2,300 theory hours and 2,300 placement hours to qualify.
“This means you would be paying £9,000 a year, half of the year work, and working nights and unsociable hours, so instead of payment you are in affect paying to work.
“Bursaries help people out to live a just life.
“I know I wouldn’t be able to afford to live without it. I think it’s such a shame this has happened.”
Many students currently studying nursing have to rely on part-time work to get by, even with existing NHS bursaries.
Lucy Watson, 21, is a third year student nurse. She is doing an eight-week placement in Cyprus.
She said: “It’s hard enough because the bursary is measured on your parents’ income.
“Some people only receive minimal amounts. No one else would be expected to work 37.5-hour weeks as well as doing study on top for free.
“Being in third year you are pretty much given the same role as a qualified nurse.”
Amelia Holmes, 18, from Stone, is aiming to study nursing at Staffordshire University next year.
She said: “My heart sank when I heard about the bursaries being axed.
“Paying for tuition fees may be fair enough, but having to work up to 45 hours a week unpaid, with next to no help from the government has really put a dampener on nursing for me.”
University bodies are determined to create an easier life for those studying nursing and are trying to turn the bad news into a positive.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans of Health at Staffordshire University, said: “We have a workforce crisis in health and social care and we’re still educating fewer students than the NHS needs.
“We recognise this has been a difficult decision for the Government.
“The plan means students will have access to more day to day maintenance support through the loans system.”
Nigel Thomas, fellow member of the Council of Deans of Health, said: “At Staffordshire, we are currently developing our two Centres of Excellence in Healthcare education. One in Shrewsbury and one in Stafford.
“We now urge a commitment from all departments to manage a stable transition to the new system.”
The Department of Health spends around £826m every year to fund 60,000 students through their three-year nursing degree courses.
(pic by COD newsroom, creative commons licence)