A nursing expert has praised the reintroduction of government grants for student nurses announced in December.
Dr Julia Gale, head of nursing at Kingston University and St George’s, welcomed the return of grants for new and current nursing students but said more needs to be done to keep newly qualified nurses working for the NHS.
The announcement comes after the government confirmed it would reinstate grants of £5000 for nursing students and £8000 in areas such as mental health and disability nursing which are harder to recruit for and face dwindling applications.
Dr Gale said: “We welcome that the government has decided to bring grants back for student nurses and I can say that this is as a result of a lot of lobbying from the Royal College of Nursing on behalf of students and also the Council of Deans.”
The Council of Deans of Health represent UK university faculties who aim influence government policy, educate and provide research for health professionals.
Dr Gale added it would have been ideal if the government also removed the student loan, but said the £5000 for existing as well as new students will go a long way as travelling to placements and the cost of living, especially in London, is very expensive.
She said the next step is looking at incentives to keep nurses in the profession.
Government plans to reintroduce grants were unveiled as part of the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto after they were cut for student nurses and midwives in 2017 austerity measures.
The funding is part of the Conservative Party’s pledge to increase the number of NHS nurses to 50,000 in five years.
However, some have criticised this figure as misleading because around 19,000 nurses are estimated to be staff prevented from leaving the profession under the plans rather than new hires.
Dr Gale said: “The large vacancy rate, which we all know there is, is why this government have brought the grant through.”
She added intense workloads can prevent nurses from being called away on training courses meaning skills can become outdated.
She said: “I hope that we can keep ensuring this £5000 will encourage people to come into nursing and we can bring some of those areas, for example adult nursing, back up to the numbers that we had when the bursary was in place so the existing nurses practising don’t become overworked, exhausted or burn out as a result of having to carry more than one person’s work load.”
Dr Gale added that she has seen first year nursing students apply and change their minds because they cannot commit to the cost of living and said they can apply for hardship funds.
She said of anyone thinking about applying to train as a nurse: “It’s the year of the nurse in 2020 and nursing is advancing all the time. It’s the bedrock of the NHS.
"Nurses will be supported and will be encouraged to come into the profession to continue to provide excellent service.”
The deadline for applications is January 15 2020.