Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland student nurses' bursaries cut

Hospital exterior
Image caption Nurses complete their studies at university but do their training in hospitals

Bursaries for nursing and midwifery students in Northern Ireland are to be cut by £890 from this year onwards.

The basic annual non-means tested, non-repayable bursary for nurses and midwives entering training is to be reduced to £5,165 per annum.

A separate book and uniform allowance of £190 is also being removed.

The Department of Health said the changes aimed to bring payments into line with those made to other health and social care students and would save £2.2m over a three-year period.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "I realise the reduction in the non-means tested bursary may be disappointing for some students enrolling in the 2012/13 year.

"However, I remain fully committed to supporting our student nurses and midwives in their training and my department will continue to fund training for Health and Social Care students," he said.

'Savings miniscule'

"I must balance this though, against the ongoing need to ensure value for money and sustainability in bursary provision."

Sinn Fein health spokesperson Sue Ramsey said the financial saving of about £700,000 per year "was minuscule in comparison to the wages paid to senior management of which the health service is top heavy".

"Every year we see shortages of experienced nurses and midwives right across the medical profession so it is important that those enrolling as students are given as much support as possible," she said.

"The announcement... is a severe blow to those students about to embark on their professional training and I am fearful that many will now have to reconsider their career due to this move."

Adrianne Peltz, president of the NUS-USI (National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland), described the cuts as "absolutely catastrophic".

"People are about to commence their courses in the coming days, and they now face this financial body blow. This announcement is a disaster for nursing and midwifery students," she said.

"It will have thrown into turmoil the plans of students who are starting nursing and midwifery courses in the next few days and weeks, and now face this devastating cut in their bursary."

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