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A petition to pay healthcare students for placement hours

"Is it not the quality of the clinical placements rather than the quantity of clinical hours that make a competent nurse?" A question debated by the RCN Congress on their website over Clinical placement hours.

According to the Royal College of Nursing, the current requirement for healthcare training, set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), is 2,300 hours spent in a clinical placement during their degree, which must last a minimum of four weeks in order to obtain their professional registration. Student nurses are training with the NHS full time with the majority of their training being on placement and the rest of the time attending university.

Nurses spend the most time with patients out of any other profession and have been repeatedly recognised as the main workforce of the NHS. Even though nursing now requires more academic knowledge and skill, this is still not reflected in their salaries or tuition fees.

A petition named 'Pay healthcare students for payment hours' has already gained 31,327 signatures. To be considered for debate in Parliament, the petition needs to have 100,000 signatures and all petitions on this website only run for six months.

From looking at the Petition map, you can see that the highest amount of signatures (at the time of this article being written) come from Plymouth, Bristol East, East London, Suffolk Coastal, Birmingham, Sheffield, Liverpool Riverside, Beverley and Holderness, Kingston Upon Hull North, Leads East, Carlisle and much more which all have 150 plus signatures. View your region here.

The petition asks to pay a basic living wage to health care students who have to do 37.5 hours on placement a week. Also, it says that students should receive a fair wage to help support themselves during their studies as part-time work is not always an option.

Money can be tight for nursing students, especially those attending university in a city, because of the higher living costs, the small amount of money that they are getting paid is barely/not even covering their rent and so they may have to take another job on the side to make ends meet. This can cause the healthcare workers to over-work themselves and possibly suffer from chronic fatigue which could end up affecting the level of care offered in UK hospitals.

The NHS bursary Reform revealed that from August 1, 2017, new nursing, midwifery and most allied health students will no longer receive NHS bursaries. Instead, they will have access to the same student loans system that other students use.

A response to the petition by the Department of Health stated:

"The NMC provide guidance on the requirement for students to have supernumerary status during clinical placements. The NMC state that “Programme providers must ensure that students are supernumerary during all practice learning. Supernumerary means that the student will not, as part of their programme of preparation, be contracted by any person or body to provide nursing care.

"This compulsory training in a clinical setting makes healthcare students unique in the student population. It is our view that students' completion of high-quality clinical placements is essential to having a well-trained workforce for the NHS. As a result and in addition to the expenses system already in place and run by the higher education student support system, we have made additional funding available for pre-registration nursing, midwifery and allied health profession students with the purpose of maintaining access to clinical placements and other areas associated with the compulsory study.

"We will also provide students with funding for unavoidable costs incurred for temporary accommodation with the purpose of maintaining access to clinical placements and other areas associated with the compulsory study.

"The funding reforms will not change the arrangement of students being supernumerary whilst on clinical placements and they will not be paid for their clinical learning."

With this bursary reform being implemented, universities have seen a decrease in people applying to study healthcare at degree level. An article on the Independent revealed that:

"Seven hundred fewer nurses started training in England in 2017, the first year since Government scrapped training bursaries in a bid to allow more nurses to be trained, UCAS figures reveal.

"The numbers of people accepted to study nursing in England fell 3 percent in 2017, while the numbers accepted in Wales and Scotland, where the bursaries were kept, increased 8.4 percent and 8 percent respectively.

"It comes as the hospital performance watchdog said there were at least 36,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in NHS trusts and foundation trusts at the end of September this year."

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