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Monday, 11 January 2016

Thousands of student nurses and midwives march against scrapping of bursaries

Written by The Press Association

Student nurses and midwives turned out in their thousands as they marched from St Thomas's Hospital to Whitehall to make their protest against the scrapping of bursaries heard opposite Downing Street.

They were supported in their fight to keep bursaries by Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander, as well as the Royal College of Nursing and trades unions.

Among those speaking at the demonstration was Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who said they did a "fantastic job" and that they had "no right to be subjected to an attack by this government".

Anthony Johnson, a 22-year-old student nurse studying at London's King's College, helped to organise the rally and said the bursary was seen as a way of compensating students for the long hours their courses require.

He said: "The bursary was a way for us to afford to live. Taking it away means student nurses are having to mortgage their futures. As the lowest paid professionals we will also have to get into £56,000 of debt, so will never be able to pay it off."

Mr Johnson said high numbers of nurses or midwifery students have children or are mature students, and therefore already have financial commitments, meaning they cannot afford the debt, while bringing in a loan would put off those from low socio-economic backgrounds.

He added: "Ninety two per cent of students currently studying say they wouldn't have been able to do the course if they had had a loan.

"We are students and all we ever wanted to do is have the opportunity to show that we care for patients, and that is being taken away from us. It is going to destroy our NHS."

Jenny Leow, 31, a trainee occupational therapist at London South Bank University, said she would not have been able to train without the bursary.

She said: "Axing the NHS bursary will disproportionately affect poor, older and working class students.

"The richest 1% - the banks and biggest corporations - have caused a financial crisis that the Tories are determined that we should pay for. The money is there, it is just with the wrong people.

"The bursary or bust campaign proposes that on February 10, when junior doctors are staging a full walk-out, that all NHS students walk out for half a day as well in solidarity and to present a united NHS that is fighting not only for ourselves but also for our patients."

Nicola Pickstone, 35, an A&E sister at a London hospital who attended the rally with her two-year-old daughter Annabel and 10-month-old son Alastair, said nursing training was tough.

She said: "You work 37.5 hours a week, nights, days, weekends, so it is very difficult to get a part-time job on top of those hours as well as doing assignments and studying.

"I am here to support all of my student nurse colleagues and the future student nursing colleagues, because I think it is just going to be absolutely disastrous if the bursaries are stopped.

"There will be fewer people applying for courses, there will be fewer maturer students applying for courses. Those that want to do it as a second career or have been touched by the health service so want to work in it, people that have already got children or mortgages - these are the people that we are going to lose."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Harris PA / Wire.