On Saturday 9 January, thousands of student nurses and their supporters marched on Downing Street to protest the government’s proposal to replace current bursaries with loans. Steve Eason documented a day of anger and solidarity on the front line of the battle to save the NHS.
As King’s College student nurse Emma RC writes, the bursary as it stands is already barely adequate:
“£3 an hour. That’s how much the bursary roughly works out at for a student nurse, midwife or allied health professional, if they are even entitled to the full amount. It’s not much, but given that 90% of 2,000 Student Nurses asked would not have undertaken a degree without it, the question is why take it away? Why saddle key workers with £50,000 debt?
“In effect we will have to pay the most regressive tax in Britain for the rest of our lives.”
Given that those training to be nurses must undertake hospital placements as part of their degrees, scrapping the bursary essentially means that the government would be forcing students to cripple themselves with debt in return for carrying out essential work in wards throughout the country, before finally earning a chronically low salary when they graduate.
“You can try to break us: you will fail”
As the speakers in the above videos make clear, Saturday’s march showed that the government has a fight on its hands. In building a vibrant, grass-roots movement – largely led by and composed of young women, many without any prior political experience – the nurses have shown us how to make 2016 the year the tide turns in the fight to save the institutions built by decades of working class struggle.
They will be out in force again on Tuesday 12 January in solidarity with the junior doctors’ strike. We all need the NHS. Show your support at one of the hundreds of picket lines outside hospitals across the country.