As you may be aware, responsibility for education and for health is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the UK Government’s plans to replace NHS bursaries will only affect England.
In Scotland, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has taken the opposite view to the UK Government and has committed to maintain a nursing bursary and to keep nursing tuition free. We recognise the role and contributions of student nurses and midwives and want to attract and retain a high calibre workforce. You may also be pleased to hear that the SNP Scottish Government has announced 1,000 additional student training places for nurses and midwives and an investment of £3 million to train a further 500 advanced nurse practitioners. In addition, we are aware of the demands student nurses and midwives face, and that is why we have also announced a new £1 million discretionary fund for students experiencing financial hardship to give a safety net that will help them continue with their studies.
In the financial year 2015-16, the Scottish Government funding for nurse and midwifery student bursaries was £60 million including additional allowances and a further £58 million on pre-registration nursing and midwifery courses. The Scottish Government continues to work with nurse representatives and is currently undertaking a review of how to further improve overall support for nursing and midwifery students in Scotland.
The SNP Scottish Government has invested heavily in the health and care workforce in the last nine years and we are fully committed to continue building on this success. During this time, we have seen the number of staff working in our NHS reach a record high, having increased by almost 11,400, including more than 2,300 extra qualified nurses.
In our 2016 Scottish Parliament elections manifesto, the SNP pledged to increase the NHS revenue budget by £500 million more than inflation by the end of this parliament. Health spending in Scotland will reach a record level of £12.4 billion in 2016/17, despite Scotland’s budget being slashed by the UK Government.
The SNP Scottish Government is strongly committed to supporting nursing and midwifery students and ensuring that Scotland can continue to have a high quality nursing workforce now and in the future.