As part of their ongoing fight against the scrapping of NHS bursaries, NHS funded students all over the UK will walk out of their placements for two hours on Wednesday 6th April at 10am. This follows a successful walkout in February as part of a nationwide week of action and will be done in coordination with the latest action called by the Junior Doctors, a 48 hour strike which begins that day. Nurses are calling for non-NHS students to meet them in the lobby of two London hospitals, St. Thomas’ and Whitechapel at 10am, and walk out with them in solidarity. At 12pm, they will then head to the Department of Health for a die in.
The die in will highlight the number of NHS students that will be lost due to the cuts to NHS bursaries, as well as the way the government’s programme of cuts, marketisation and privatisation is killing the NHS. Most NHS funded students are from non-traditional backgrounds: a large proportion are mature students or students who have already completed a first degree, and they are disproportionately women, working class, BME or students with caring responsibilities. We know that these are the groups that are hardest hit by debt, and many could not have even contemplated the course without the bursary: following the 2011 hike in tuition fees, there was a massive drop in applications to higher education from mature students. The NHS bursary is vital for a fully funded and well-staffed NHS, and scrapping it will mean that NHS funded students will be forced into debt in order to work for the NHS. According to the Royal College of Midwives, midwifery students will graduate with a debt of £65,000 after a three year course, despite the fact that NHS students work alongside their degrees, often doing unsociable hours which make part-time work impossible. In effect, the removal of the bursary would force prospective nurses and allied health professionals to pay to work.
The campaign to save NHS bursaries is the fight to save the NHS from further cuts, marketisation and privatisation, but also for free, liberated and accessible education and universal living grants, funded by taxing the rich and big business. Fighting alongside NHS students should also be a priority for feminists in the student movement – cuts to NHS bursaries are a feminist issue which must be placed in the context of the imposition of the junior doctors’ contract. If imposed, the new contract is likely to widen the gender pay gap in medicine, and is essentially a penalty for care work, as women tend to spend more years in training than men in order to balance caring responsibilities and their job.
Non NHS students need to fight alongside prospective nurses, midwives and other health professionals – here are some things you can do:
- Join NHS students in the lobbies of St. Thomas’ or Whitechapel hospital in London at 10am on Wednesday as they walk out of their placements.
- Join them at the Die In outside the Department of Health at 12pm.
- Join junior doctors and NHS students on your nearest picket line on Wednesday.
- Link your free education group with NHS students on your campus and walk out with them!
- If you’re a delegate at NUS Women’s Conference, vote for motion 307 #BursaryOrBust and Amendments 1 and 2.