Regional publisher Newsquest has launched a campaign across all of its daily titles calling on the government to refund tuition fees for student nurses working in hospitals during the coronavirus crisis.
More than 15,000 student nurses paying over £9,000 a year in tuition fees have signed up to assist the NHS on the frontline of the outbreak.
An investigation by a community reporter Natasha Meek from Bradford’s Telegraph & Argus had shown that many students were until recently on unpaid placements, with many students having set aside their studies to cover NHS staff shortages.
Newsquest titles backing the campaign include the T&A, Northern Echo, Oxford Mail and Swindon Advertiser, as they launched the Support Student Nurses campaign on front pages this morning.
Nigel Burton, editor of the Telegraph & Argus, told Behind Local News: “Through a cruel twist of fate the final year students who are currently putting their lives – and, potentially, the lives of their families – on the line are also the only students who will have to pay their own tuition fees.”
“That means the final year nursing students working in our hospitals, and confronting a public health crisis the likes of which no one has seen before, are effectively being asked to pay for the privilege of having the courage to volunteer.
“We think that is a terrible injustice and have called on the Government to wipe out this year’s fees as a way of saying ‘thank you’.”
The government abolished the NHS bursary in 2015 with nursing students having to pay their own tuition fees. However, after a 23 per cent reduction in nursing applications in England, bursary payments have been re-introduced for September 2020 onwards – although not retrospectively.
The T&A’s front page today read ‘Forever in their debt’ as papers emphasised the debts faced by student nurses. The paper raised the issue at yesterday’s Downing Street briefing which saw regional journalists rather than national journalists ask questions of the government.
The Oxford Mail has reported the campaign has been backed by MPs across the political landscape as well as the Royal College of Nursing. Readers are also encouraged to sign a petition for parliament to debate the issue.
Last week, Newsquest and regional publisher JPI Media turned their mastheads blue to support NHS heroes on the frontline.