Junior Doctor strikes shouldn’t overshadow Britain’s nursing mess

Amid high profile strikes by junior doctors, let’s not forget about the hardship faced by Britain’s young nurses

Iona Bain

At this time when everyone’s attention is drawn to the situation of junior doctors, may I draw your attention to the plight of the nurses?

Last week it was reported that there was “critical shortage” of nurses in London as it emerged that more than 10,000 posts were unfilled, and hospitals are struggling to recruit.

A Royal College of Nursing survey found the vacancy rate had increased from 14 per cent to 17 per cent as the number of empty posts rose from 8,000 to 10,140.

With an almost macabre synchronicity, that warning came just before thousands of student nurses  marched on Downing Street to protest at cuts to bursaries and the introduction of tuition fees from next August that could leave them more than £50,000 in debt.

Yes the previous week we were informed of the goverment’s whizzbang plan to change the funding of student nurses from a bursary-based system to – wait for it – loans. Yes that’s right, the nurse who has to empty the bedpans and care for the dying is one the same repayment system as the young lawyers and the recruits to Goldman Sachs.

As Matt Bain’s blogbuster this week revealed, we are in a class segregated housing crisis. And as Sadiq Khan, Labour’s mayoral candidate, said in the House of Commons, this is no longer a crisis – it’s an emergency. Is it, then, any wonder that we are in a London hospital recruitment crisis?

When is the government going to do some joined-up thinking? We should not be expecting nurses to take up loans during their training, nor to compete for bursaries for that matter. We should be PAYING them. After all, they do actually work as nurses, on the wards, while they are being trained!

 

 

 

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