EXCLUSIVE: UKIP Health Spokeswoman Calls For Living Wage For Student Nurses
UKIP’s health spokeswoman, Dr Julia Reid MEP, is urging the Government to adopt UKIP’S policy of introducing a living wage to nursing students whilst on their placements, following a joint report by the Nursing Standard and the Health Foundation that showed that nearly a quarter of student nurses (24%) dropped out of their degrees before they graduated last year.
Of the 16,544 UK nursing students at 55 universities, who began three-year degrees (that were due to finish last year), 4,027 of them either left their courses early or suspended their studies, which, according to Dr Reid, “isn’t good when you consider the fact that the NHS still has an estimated shortfall of around 40,000 nurses in England alone”.
The Nursing Standard magazine’s 2006 investigation into nursing drop-out rates found that 24.8% of nursing students failed to finish their studies, however, over a decade on and the attrition rate still remains relatively static at 24%. According to the Royal College of Nursing, one of the main reasons students drop out of nursing courses is due to financial difficulties.
In response to the report, Dr Julia Reid MEP said: “Statistics collected by the HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) showed that 10.3% of students across all university courses in the UK either left without a degree or had been transferred to another programme. So comparative to other university courses across the UK, a 24% drop-out rate in nursing courses is incredibly high, in fact, it’s well over double that of other courses.
“Of course, one of the most significant factors for the high drop-out rates for nursing students will be financial difficulties. Unlike the majority of students studying degree courses, student nurses and other healthcare students are required to work mandatory 37.5 hour-a-week placements and must complete a minimum of 2,300 hours of practice over the duration of their three-year course.
“As you can imagine, the commitment to working full-time hours during their placements make it very difficult for them to take-up part-time jobs in order to help pay for their rent and other expenses. And therefore, even when they’re working 6-7 days a week they’ll often still, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a great deal of financial difficulty throughout their studies.
“This is why we in UKIP believe that student nurses and other students studying healthcare courses should be entitled to receive a living wage whilst they’re on their placements. The introduction of such a policy would mean that a significant number of healthcare students would no longer have to give up on their aspirations of becoming a nurse, radiographer or other health care professional because they can’t afford to eat or pay the electric bill”.
Unsurprisingly, UKIP isn’t alone on this position. A petition to pay student nurses the minimum living wage whilst on placements, set up by a student nurse on change.org, has so far amassed almost 456,000 signatures and counting.
John Worth, the author of the petition, wrote: “As a student, we need to make up 2,300 clinical hours of hospital hours, as stated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, so that we can join the register. Other, more traditional, degrees don’t require this. I love the practical experience I get, but the fact that we aren’t paid makes it feel like we’re just free labour for the NHS.”
“I’m doing my placement hours but also working on the side, most of the time doing 6 day weeks sometimes 7 day weeks just to get by.”
John also writes that the 7 day weeks are a strain on his mental health adding: “That’s why I’m calling for a minimum living wage for all student nurses, to ensure we aren’t wearing ourselves out, putting not only ourselves at risk but also the patients we come across day to day.”
In addition to the huge support John Worth has received for his petition, a YouGov survey conducted in 2016, showed that 71% of respondents (and 72% of UKIP members) feel that students should be paid for the time they spend working in hospitals.
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