NHS offers mature students £5,000 bonus to become mental health nurses

Mature students studying to become mental health or disability nurses will receive a £5,000 bonus, according to The Guardian

The NHS has promised that it will offer a bonus of £5,000 to mature students if they become mental health or disability nurses.

This scheme is to tackle the nursing shortages in these two areas. They have been identified as priorities and attempting to improve the situation is part of the Long Term Plan.

Mature students over the age of 25 agreeing to qualify to be one of these types of nurses will receive the bonus – described as an ‘earn and learn support premium’.

An official commented: “Improving care for people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities are absolute priorities in the long term plan so it makes sense that we try and incentivise people – mature candidates – to train as nurses in those areas.”

Bursaries for nurses were scrapped in 2016, which has led to a 32% fall in degree courses. Worse still, mature students applying to become mental health and disability nurses has fallen by 40%.

The new incentive initiative will be included in the Long Term Plan, which outlines how the £20.5bn promised by Theresa May should be spent.

One NHS hospital trust boss, David Munday, said the £5,000 payments were likely to do little to address the shortage of nurses.

“On the face of it, I’m sure this can be painted as positive news, as anything that is done to reverse the significant cuts to some areas of nursing, which certainly include mental health and learning disabilities, is critical”, said Munday.

Munday highlighted the fact that, in May, the Department of Health and Social Care announced a plan in which mature students becoming district, mental health or learning disabilities nurses would actually receive £10,000 – something it failed to release any details of afterwards.

“It’s very hard to understand whether this new plan for £5,000 payments is actually a 50% cut in a previously announced scheme. The government appears to put infinitely more energy into announcing its policies rather than actually implementing them,” said Munday.

Prof Donna Kinnair, the RCN’s acting chief executive, added: “With nursing student numbers falling and the number of unfilled nurse jobs projected to rise as high as 48,000 in the next five years, the situation is desperate.

“This is a small step in the right direction, but this kind of policy would benefit only a very limited group of people. If the government and NHS England want to attract more people to study nursing, and begin to tackle the increasingly dangerous shortfall in nurse numbers, we need more than tinkering.”

A spokesperson for NHS England commented: “Supporting NHS staff and improving NHS mental health and learning disabilities are both priorities for the NHS and earlier this year we launched our largest ever campaign to recruit and train nurses in these specialist fields.”

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