Saturday 23 July 2016

The Tories are scrapping NHS bursaries

Before clearing off for their extended summer holiday Theresa May's Tory government announced that they're planning to hammer another nail into the NHS coffin by scrapping NHS bursaries for university students by 2017.

The plan to scrap bursaries and replace them with loans would result in trainee nurses and midwives leaving university with over £50,000 worth of debt. The starting salary for a newly trained NHS nurse is just £21,692 per year. The idea that people are going to jump at the opportunity to load themselves up with over fifty grand in debt for a job where only a tiny minority ever progress far enough up the pay scale to earn more than £30,000 per year is ridiculous. A Unison survey of working nurses found that over 90% said that they wouldn't have trained as a nurse if they had had no access to the NHS bursary.

The Royal College of Nursing has described the plan as unfair and risky, while the Royal College of Midwifery has said that the move threatens the future of maternity services in the UK.

Other health specialisations that will be hit hard by this Tory plan to lumber trainee health professionals with mountains of debt occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, podiatry and radiography.

The scrapping of NHS bursaries is yet another piece of evidence that Tories are conducting a deliberate ideological war of attrition on the NHS and its staff.

Since 2010 the Tories have shut down dozens of A&E units and maternity wards and made it far easier to force the closure of even more NHS facilities against public opinion (despite promising to end forced closures prior to the 2010 General Election); NHS mental health funding is in crisis; several Tory NHS privatisation scams have ended in chaos (like Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Cornwall out of hours GP services and the Brighton ambulance fiasco); waiting times have skyrocketed since 2010 so the Tories simply scrapped the waiting time targets; Jeremy Hunt has provoked a bitter ongoing dispute with junior doctors; In April 2016 Theresa May introduced an absurd "earn £35,000 a year or you're deported"; rule for non-EU workers; Brexit means that skilled health workers from within the EU are likely to be deterred from coming to the UK (especially given Theresa May's refusal to rule out the forced deportations of EU citizens); and now the Tories are trying to provoke a recruitment crisis by scrapping financial support for student medical professionals.

The idea that these things are all coincidental or unplanned is staggeringly naive. Paul Charlson, the boss of Conservative Health has already explained that the only way to conceivably scrap the socialist NHS "free at the point of use" principle is to create "a feeling in the country that the health service is falling apart".

The Tory blogger Henry Hill went even further, laying out the full Tory blueprint for wrecking our public services.

The Tory government claim that scrapping the student bursary system and lumbering health professionals with huge debts will save the country £800 million a year, which they say will be invested in creating more places for student nurses and midwives. This is hardly rational. How does it make sense to increase the number of health care training places whilst simultaneously trashing demand for those places by removing one of the main incentives for people to study for careers in health care?

To put the cited £800 million a year "saving" into perspective, the estimated cost of renewing Trident and the associated running costs over the 30 year lifespan is £205 billion. That would be enough to pay bursaries to student nurses and midwives for the next 256 years!

Theresa May's decision to write the biggest blank cheque in parliamentary history to the corporations that stand to make £billions from renewing the UK's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction one week and then hammering yet another nail into the NHS coffin by scrapping NHS bursaries the next is a perfect illustration of her warped priorities.

Theresa May (and all Tories) are dedicated servants of capital. To them it makes perfect sense to shovel £billions in taxpayers' cash at the corporations that operate the UK's privatised nuclear weapons systems (Jacobs Engineering, Lockheed Martin and Serco).

Theresa May (and Tories in general) have a burning ideological hatred of the NHS because it is an efficient and highly popular example of state socialism. The Tories hate it because they're ideologically opposed to any forms of socialism (apart from socialism for the rich of course) but they have to dishonestly claim to love the NHS because it's so incredibly popular.

The true Tory objective is to wreck the NHS as much as they can so they can eventually justify scrapping the socialist "free at the point of need" principle entirely and introducing a US style private insurance system. The scrapping of NHS bursaries is yet another step towards this rarely admitted but all-too-obvious Tory objective of ruining our NHS.

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