The NHS is above all a service about people – nurses, doctors and other health workers, and of course patients, all coming together and working for the common good, for the health of the nation and the people of the nation. Providing a comprehensive service that meets the needs of everyone, free at the point of delivery and based on clinical need not the ability to pay. It never quite managed to meet those ideals on which it was based, in part due to the intransigence of the dental profession, and was eroded slightly over the years by the introduction of prescription charges, but for those who work in it, and for all of us who use it as patients, these remain its guiding principles.
But for our current government, the NHS is viewed largely as a bottomless pit into which taxes are poured and as an opportunity for them and their friends and donors to make money from, with the aspects that are more easily converted to profit being hived off to be run by private companies. Still at the moment free to patients at the point of use, but that could well change, and pulling money out of the system and making it more expensive to run what remains in public hands.
For nearly all of those who go into any aspect of the medical profession it is more than a job, truly a vocation. Many jobs involve unsocial hours, excessive workloads and considerable stress. They don’t do it for the money – and almost all could earn more in various overseas countries. They do it because they care for people and want to help them.
The NHS bursaries are vital for many who want to train to be nurses and allied professions, and in particular make it possible for many more mature entrants to enter training. The government’s decision to get rid of them and replace them by loans appears driven by a kind of mad logic that it will enable them to get more people to take up nursing training because it will cos the government less to provide it, while ignoring the fact that it is only these bursaries that enable many to take the courses. The cutting of bursaries will transfer training costs from the NHS to students, resulting in an increase of around 70% for them.
It’s also deeply unfair, as nurses in training are a vital part of the NHS workforce, providing nursing care while learning on the job, working long hours in the wards. They work for those bursaries, and the long hours they need to work preclude them taking on the part-time jobs most other students need to supplement their loans.
I’ve chosen pictures here to show some of the people campaigning for NHS bursaries, not on their own behalf, as the changes will only affect new students, but because they realise how important these bursaries are for future students and the future of the NHS. Of course I took other photographs, including those of the celebrities and others who spoke at the rally and more general pictures of the protest. We have now seen that the axing of the bursaries has, as expected cut down the numbers applying for courses, down by 23% this year, at a time when the need for nurses is desperate and growing with ouver 24,000 vacancies – and when Brexit threatens to cut the supply of nursing staff from the EU.
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All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.