THE Hereford Times is joining a campaign calling on the Government to scrap tuition fees for student nurses serving in our hospitals on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19.

Among those facing a virus which threatens their own lives as much as their patients’ is the new generation of nurses, paramedics and midwives, experiencing their career firsts in the middle of an unprecedented international public health emergency.

They are the final year students who are paying £9,250 a year tuition fees for a degree course cut short by the Covid-19 crisis.

Until 2016-17, students studying a nursing degree received a bursary worth up to £16,454 a year, which also met tuition fees.

Since the Government unexpectedly scrapped the bursary in 2015, there has been a 23 per cent reduction in applications for nursing courses in England as students now face a huge financial burden.

According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), it is a key reason why hospitals started this pandemic critically short of nurses, and why thousands of students have been rushed to the frontline before their courses are finished.

Ironically, from September all nursing students in England will get a £5,000-a-year maintenance grant. A cold comfort.

We are calling on the Government to scrap university tuition fees for academic year 2019/20 for student nurses who have shown their dedication to the NHS by serving in the pandemic.

The RCN has backed the campaign, branding tuition fees for healthcare students a “mistake” and “a barrier to safely staffing hospital and other care settings”.

Newsquest approached the Treasury and the Department for Health but they declined to comment.

A Department of Education spokesperson said: “We are grateful to all students who choose to support our NHS during this extremely difficult time and will be ensuring all students who do opt in are rewarded fairly for their hard work.”

  • Scrap fees for NHS angels. Sign the petition (set up by Nathash Meek of the Bradford Telegraph and Argus) here:

We’re stepping forward and risking our lives

A student nurse from Herefordshire is joining the Hereford Times in calling on the Government to scrap tuition fees for those risking their lives.

Third year nursing student Ricky Baker, of Eardisley, said it is an anxious time for him knowing he will start work in the NHS during a pandemic.

Mr Baker is confident his education at the University of Worcester has left him ready to start work in the paediatric team in Gloucestershire next week.

But he says student nurses are required to complete 2,300 hours in clinical practice – and pay £9,250 a year.

He said: “All students from September 2017 should have their fees scrapped regardless on whether they are opting in to assist the NHS with the coronavirus.”

Hereford and South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman said the whole country is indebted to the “astonishing work” of the NHS during the present crisis as many student nurses have stepped forward to help.

He said: “These students will be paid for their work.

“They will also continue to receive payments through the Learning Support Fund and the Student Loans Company.”

But more is needed.

Mr Baker said: “It isn’t enough to lure students into a pandemic by paying them to risk their lives.”