Some postgraduate nurses will be offered £10,000 by the government to tackle staff shortages in specifc areas of nursing.
Students wanting to study mental health, learning disability and district nursing will be offered the “golden hellos” to reflect the fact those disciplines have “recruitment difficulties”, health minister Stephen Barclay said yesterday.
Mr Barclay was speaking in the House of Commons during a debate on the government’s plans to scrap the bursary for postgraduate nursing students. He said the support package would be worth £9.1m.
He said it would be supplemented by a further £900,000 to “mitigate a particular challenge with recruiting in any geographical areas”, but added it could be a “different quantum to £10,000”.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has previously said NHS staff should be paid more to work in less popular areas of the country.
Commons health committee chair Sarah Wollaston welcomed the targeted financial support packages and added that learning disability and mental health nurses tend to be older and were “particularly affected”.
Katerina Kolyva, executive director of the Council of Deans of Health, said it welcomed the government’s announcement of additional measures to support workforce growth.
She said: “The council has previously raised concerns about recruitment to certain courses, including learning disability and mental health nursing, and pushed for targeted interventions to support these subjects. We look forward to hearing more detail about the support package that is being proposed.”
Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the announcement was a “welcome concession from the government”.
However, she added that “both undergraduate and postgraduate [students] should be encouraged and financially supported”.
The government scrapped the NHS bursary for undergraduate nurses in August 2017 and earlier this year said postgraduate pre-registration nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals would access loans from the Student Loans Company, rather than a bursary.
The debate yesterday was initiated by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, to stop the government’s proposals to scrap postgraduate bursaries. However, it was voted down by 295 votes to 235.
HSJ reported in February that one in 10 nursing roles are vacant, according to data from NHS Improvement.
The data also showed there were particularly high vacancy rates in some regions, such as London, where 14.4 percent of posts were unfilled.