Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the Prime Minister to restore bursaries for NHS nurses as he claims there are currently 40,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS.
Speaking in Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Corbyn said: “Mr Speaker, eight years of Tory austerity means there are 40,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS.
“The number of students applying for nurse training has fallen by over 16,000 since cuts in the nurse bursary.
“The Prime Minister has told us that austerity is over, will the Government take the necessary step next week in the budget of restoring the nurse bursary so that those who want to become nurses in our NHS can realise their ambitions?”
'Ensuring nursing remains an attractive career'
Since the Government cut bursaries in 2016, applications for nursing have fallen by a third.
The NHS in Scotland and Wales continue to offer bursaries to nursing students but they are not available for English students.
Earlier this month, West Lancashire councillor Elizabeth Savage started a Parliamentary petition calling for bursaries to be reinstated.
Responding to the petition, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The are no plans to reintroduce bursaries, which resulted in many students being turned away from a nursing career. We are supporting universities to fill extra places created through these reforms.
“We are committed to ensuring nursing remains an attractive career so the NHS builds on the record number of nurses currently on wards.
“Reforms to healthcare education funding started to take effect from 1 August 2017, with students moving from a bursary-based funding model to loans-based.”
They added: “There is still strong demand for nursing courses and we have opened extra routes into nursing for those who may not want to study a full-time degree.
“We expect that up to 5,000 Nursing Associates will train through the apprentice route in 2018 and up to 7,500 in 2019. We now have a complete apprentice pathway from entry level to postgraduate advanced clinical practice in nursing.
We have put in place several actions to increase nursing workforce supply, covering improving staff retention, return to practice, overseas recruitment, expanding nursing associates, improving sickness absence and review of language controls.”