Bursary or Bust

Anthony Johnson, a student nurse at King’s College London who has already voted in favour of strike action by the RCN, says student nurses need to get radical and get fighting.

Article 4 of the Human Rights Act states that it is illegal for someone to be forced to provide labour. Why then are we happy to have 20,000 student nurses and midwives across the country paying £26 an hour to work within the NHS? The government will call this training.

With almost 10% of nursing posts across England (24,000) unfilled it is impossible to learn whilst working to plug the gaps the Tories have created within our health service.

Bursary or Bust was the campaign that other Healthcare students and I created last year to fight against the Government’s disastrous policy to remove the NHS Bursary and force us to take out student loans worth up to £64,000 a year.

Student Nurses and Midwives currently work over 2,300 hours throughout their course for no pay so in the future they will be paying to work. Our courses last 45 weeks (15 weeks longer than the average student), 1 in 2 of us have children and because we work days, nights and weekends we are unable to hold down part time work. All of this for the lowest professional salary in the UK that has fallen 16% in 7 years.

Where is the rationale then in removing the NHS Bursary? The Government would say it is to increase the number of students. Ironic then, that applications have fallen by 23% or 10,000 since the policy was introduced. There weren’t enough mentors in practice to train all these new students anyway but that’s the kind of nonsense you see pandered by the Government with almost no pushback from the public.

Where in any other job would you be allowed to fail on every single variable YOU had set and still think that you would be rehired? Only within the Conservative Government.

Since entering the politics of healthcare and seeing the vindictive policies that have been implemented over the past 30 years I wonder why there hasn’t been greater uproar by the public. After all, as a national health service it is they who are affected by the failings of our NHS.

Of course, it’s because the mainstream media and parliamentary parties collude with the very organisations that seek to profit from seeing our health service sold-off. It was only because of the heroic actions last year with the Junior Doctors that this corruption was brought to light and now, finally, it can be discussed in the open.

It’s our NHS, something which our ancestors fought through world wars to create. No one has a right sell it off because we are its owners. That’s why we have to fight for it. We must listen to the 400,000 nurses who are about to decide whether or not the time is right for industrial action. We need to champion their cause and apply pressure to the other unions outside of the RCN to make sure that they ballot the other hundreds of thousands of people affected by the Government’s pay cuts.

There are 1 million people on the Agenda for Change. We all know someone who works in the NHS. We need to bolster their resolve and give them the confidence to fight for themselves because they will also be fighting for us.

The time is right for another attempt to break this government over their crippling plan of austerity. The NHS and education are their weaknesses. It’s time to go get them.

By Anthony Johnson, student nurse, campaigner and Marxist Student supporter

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