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Hardy asks for clarity on nursing students’ contracts

Image: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Labour MP Emma Hardy demands answers on nursing payment and Horizon Europe

In a letter to her government counterpart Michelle Donelan, seen by Research Professional News, shadow universities minister Emma Hardy has warned that student nurses are still in the dark about payment for clinical placement hours.

Hardy raises concerns in the letter over contracts being cut short for nurses who have worked for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. Student nurses will be paid until 31 July, but there are widespread reports that some nursing students have had six-month contracts curtailed. The government has denied that this is the case.

Hardy told the universities minister that although nursing students who still needed to complete clinical placement hours would be paid for those until September, “there is no guarantee a placement will be found and completed by then and it is not clear what will happen in those circumstances”.

She also told Donelan that some second-year student nurses were “struggling to complete placements for the year” and that those students “fear they may be required to self-fund over the summer to catch up” with their studies.

“I understand your office is making further enquiries and I trust that all our student nurses will be able to complete their studies successfully and without financial penalty,” she wrote.

Research Professional News is campaigning for nursing students to have tuition fee debt cancelled for the time they worked in the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Elsewhere in the letter, Hardy said “uncertainties surrounding participation in Horizon Europe must be resolved” and stressed that the government must make up the roughly £3.5 billion in lost funding if the UK does not take part.

“The government’s position so far is that the UK will only participate ‘if it is in the UK’s interest to do so’. I remain at a loss to understand how it could possibly be to the detriment of the UK to participate, and I look forward to hearing the potential downsides explained,” she wrote.

Hardy also warned that there “will be an increase in the dropout rate, particularly amongst the most disadvantaged students”, without government intervention, citing research by the National Union of Students that found that 72 per cent of students were worried about their ability to pay rent because of the coronavirus pandemic.

She stressed that the jobs market would “be severely depressed for this year’s graduates” and raised a proposal to offer six-month paid internships for this cohort. “We must be able to do more for these graduates than just signpost them to the JobCentre and hope that the job coaches have the skills and knowledge needed,” she wrote.

Hardy revealed that Donelan had met immigration minister Kevin Foster to discuss international students, adding that she hoped Donelan had been “able to impress upon the minister the importance of UK universities being seen as ‘open for business’ and the role the Home Office can play in the visa process to position the UK as an attractive and welcoming destination”.

“Not only are international students an essential source of revenue but in some cases their presence is all that enables individual courses to be viable—to the benefit of the UK students who also take those courses,” she wrote.

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.