Experts demand student loans to be scrapped for NHS staff

A new report from the Nuffield Trust has said student loans in England should be written off for NHS staff once they have completed 10 years.

Think tank the Nuffield Trust have produced a new report which is believed to be the most comprehensive look at what is happening to those who start training within the NHS.

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To conduct their research the trust analysed a host of different groups from doctors and nurses to midwives and allied health professionals, including physios, occupational therapists, and radiographers. The data discovered has not been published for public viewing.

However, the organisation discovered one in eight trainee nurses, radiographers and occupational therapists failed to finish their training and those who did make it through did not always progress to work in the NHS.

Against this backdrop, close to one in five nurses, physios and occupational therapists left NHS employment within two years of starting.

In response to this, the trust have suggested the government implement a new financial incentive for health workers that will see their student loan debt wiped after 10 years. However, ministers rejected the idea, claiming sufficient support is already in place.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘The current student finance system strikes the right balance between the interests of students and taxpayers. We are working closely with NHS England to reduce student attrition rates and ensure they are supported whilst in training.

‘This includes a training grant for eligible nursing, midwifery and allied health profession students of at least £5,000 a year, alongside support for childcare and certain expenses.’

As it stands, the NHS is reliant on recruitment from abroad, but during the summer the government set out a 15-year workforce plan to increase the number of health staff being trained.

Billy Palmer, Nuffield trust senior fellow, said: ‘These high dropout rates are in nobody’s interest – they’re wasteful for the taxpayer, often distressing for these students and staff who leave, and erode the NHS’s ability to deliver safe and high-quality care.

‘Simply ploughing more staff into training without thinking about why they leave or what might tempt them to stay is enormously short-sighted.’

Although government officials aren’t on board with offering additional financial incentives to attract more staff to the NHS, at least a conversation has been struck. Last month data from the House of Commons displayed an average of 10.7% of roles in adult social care were vacant in 2021/22, equivalent to approximately 165,000 vacancies.

Despite the social care sector clearly struggling for employees, people are yet to come up with concrete solutions to help attract more staff members.

Image: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

More on this topic:

£200m given to boost NHS resilience and care this winter

NHS Bursary extended in Wales with access to full maintenance loan


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