THERE has been widespread shock at the news Health Minister Edwin Poots is to slash bursaries for nursing and midwifery students by £890 from this year onwards.
The basic annual bursary for nurses and midwives entering training is now to be reduced to £5,165 per annum. The book and uniform allowance has also been removed.
The Department of Health said the cuts will bring payments into line with those made to other health students, saving £2.2m over a three-year period.
SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said he was shocked at the decision.
The SDLP had responded to a consultation seeking views on this matter, to which they submitted a robust response which called on the Minister to abandon his unfair proposals.
“This cut of almost £1,000 will have a tangible impact on all students opting to study nursing and midwifery, and will mean that many students may be forced to reconsider their options, with many no longer able to pursue this discipline which, it should be noted, is a true vocation rather than a calculated career choice.
“The cut will disproportionately affect female students in particular, given that is it predominantly women who opt to study these courses. Further to this, this cut will act as a disincentive to students from poorer backgrounds going into nursing and midwifery, despite the Minster’s bizarre rationale for the move, in which he argues that it will instead widen participation.
“The proposals also fail to take into consideration the intensive nature of nursing and midwifery courses, which have a high clinical component whereby student nurses are often required to work irregular hours and night shifts, which prevents most students from taking on additional work to supplement their income.
“I have spoken this morning to some of the hugely talented and highly-skilled nursing staff in Altnagelvin this morning and have been told by many of them that, were it not for this bursary, they would not have been able to train and consequently would not be giving the top-quality care that they are providing to thousands of people every year.
“Nurses and midwives play an invaluable role in our society, and I am calling on the Minister to immediately reconsider his decision on this, and ensure that our nurses and midwives are afforded the assistance they need and deserve throughout their studies.”