Student nurses and midwives march against move to ditch bursaries


Thousands of student nurses and midwives have marched through London and other cities as they protest against the Government's decision to scrap bursaries and replace them with loans.

The plan was unveiled in last year's Comprehensive Spending Review and is expected to free up around £800 million a year in Government spending.

But the measure has been heavily criticised by unions including Unison and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which described it as "a crushing blow".

At a rally outside Downing Street, young trainee nurses and midwives were supported by union representatives, opposition MPs, and members of the Royal College of Nursing as they gave a message to the Government - "hands off our NHS".

Marching under the "bursary or bust" campaign, they also proposed that all NHS students join junior doctors for a half-day walk-out on February 10.

Among those who addressed the students at the rally was shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander who was roundly cheered as she told them the Labour Party is on their side before reading out a message of support from leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Relaying a message he sent her earlier today, she said: "I admire our brilliant NHS staff and their work.

"We must keep nursing bursaries for the next generation so that nurses can qualify, help all of us and not be lost to the profession.

"Support for our NHS and the brilliant work that all the staff do will always be there from the Labour Party."

She herself added: "I think the Government is taking a huge gamble with the future of the NHS and you need to know that the Labour Party will fight them every step of the way.

"First it was the junior doctors and now it is the student nurses. We will oppose them and we will not let them put the future of the NHS at risk."