On Thursday 7th I joined in my first canvassing event with Tracey Biggs who is standing for Nunnery Ward Worcester in the local council elections.
Joining us on that day was Luciana Berger, Shadow Minister for Mental Health. As a retired Mental Health Nurse/Senior Lecturer in Health Studies at the University of Worcester this was a completely unexpected opportunity to talk with a Labour Party Minister about something I personally feel very passionate about.
George Osborne has announced that he will stop student nurse bursaries from September 2017 which will result in a recruitment crisis for nurses per se and in particular for Mental Health Nurses. Student nurses are different from other students and the average age of student nurses is 29.
In mental health we welcome applications from mature students and this decision to cut student nurse bursaries resulted in an e-petition being launched on line. Over 154000 signatures were collected resulting in a requirement for govt to debate the issue.
The 11th of January had been declared as the date government would hold its debate but getting an invite to the same was very limited. So thanks to my conversation with Luciana Berger I got my invite.
The day was incredibly interesting. Westminster is an amazing place and it was great to see pluralism in action. The pre debate discussion, held in the Jubilee Room, was attended by nurses, many of whom were students and a handful of allied health care professionals. The discussion represented the true nature of what it is to be a student nurse and some very powerful arguments were made.
The proposal was that student nurses and other allied health care professionals should take out student loans to pay for their training programme and fund their everyday expenses. This would amount to approx £51,000s spread over the three years of training. The notion that public sector workers should take out a loan to work in public services was deemed as an absolute nonsense by those attending and would create recruitment problems and even further staffing problems for the NHS.
The parliamentary debate followed immediately afterwards and I attach the link to the minutes here so if you are interested please do read.
Needless to say the debate was interesting but the tories presented all sorts of ridiculous arguments as to why this change will go ahead. For me this is another example of the Tory govt imposing policy that affects us all without thinking through the consequences.
There is of course the opportunity to recruit overseas student nurses to fill the University Places and they may be eligible to take on a student loan or find funding to complete training via an external agency but unless they can command a salary of over £35,000 on completion of the course they will be sent home. The qualification salary for a newly qualified nurse falls well below that figure and even the most qualified nurses would struggle to command such a wage.
So I will continue to campaign for the Labour Party, for a fairer society and one that values public sector workers. Out canvassing next week on social issues, every little helps.....