EXCLUSIVE: This letter from NHS students brilliantly calls out Jeremy Hunt

Support us and go ad-free

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, probably has a lot of letters to read on a Monday. There may be a few surrounding the current debacle over the junior doctor’s contract, as talks between the Department of Health and the British Medical Association are set to resume today.

But one that he may wish to read with interest has been penned by a group of nurses currently campaigning to save the student bursary.

As The Canary reported last week, a petition which gathered over 160,000 signatures was debated in parliament over the proposed abolition of the bursary scheme. During the session, Mr Hunt appeared less than interested in the course of the discussion and was given a ticking-off by the Speaker, John Bercow.

However the debate proved to no avail and the stripping of the bursary (worth around £6,500 a year to students) and its replacement with the standard student loan system is still going ahead.

As we said on Thursday

The government argues this will save the taxpayer around £826m a year (the majority of a bursary is non-repayable by the student) and help it create an additional 10,000 training places in five years. Campaigners against this move say it is saddling students with debt they cannot afford (the starting salary for a nurse is around £21,000) and will impair recruitment and retention by putting people off joining the profession. Furthermore, this comes at a time when these NHS staff have already been hit with a freeze on pay increases of just 1% per annum.

Not that the Health Secretary seems concerned. He may, however, wish to reconsider his position once this letter drops into his email today.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Dear Jeremy Hunt,

Following the bursary debate in parliament last week and observing how interested you were in your phone (as opposed to the future workforce of the NHS, of which you are our Health Secretary) we would like to cordially invite you to speak at our march against the NHS bursary cuts on Saturday 4th June.

We know how much you value evidence based statistics and data so we’re confident you will be able to provide a rousing speech which will tell everyone how terrible bursary cuts are for the future workforce. One particular aspect of rolling out the loan system instead of providing NHS bursaries is that there actually is no evidence whatsoever to support this. Unfortunately, your colleagues have simply decided that prospective students should pay to work and if they cannot afford it and want to be a nurse, they can be an apprentice for just £3.30 an hour.

This would mean that the NHS workforce will lose out on the rich diversity that bursaries provide because single parents, mature students, those with families and those from poorer backgrounds will not be able to afford to train because of the crippling student debt – estimated to be over £50,000.

Instead, if they want to be a nurse they can work for a pittance to achieve a lesser qualification then their degree-educated peers but probably end up with the same responsibilities, or simply give up on their dream and passion to be a healthcare professional. I am sure you would agree that this is incredibly unfair and unjust.

We know that you are against unfair impositions and would happily listen to NHS students who can articulate why the bursary cuts are a very poor choice and need to reinstated by 2017 when they are due to be abolished. The NHS workforce will be in grave danger should the loan system be imposed.

We very much look forward to your response and marching with you on the 4th of June. We assemble at St Thomas’ Hospital, 1pm. Please bring your NHS badge and a placard of choice.

Yours sincerely,

Danielle, Charli, Anthony, Andy, Jenny, Sami, Katherine and the rest of the Bursary or Bust team.

Whether Mr Hunt takes up these student nurses’ kind offer remains to be seen, but as student nurse and Bursary or Bust organiser Danielle Tiplady told The Canary

Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly ignored or declined to meet NHS students since the government cut bursaries in November. As our Health Secretary he has also remained silent on the issue. Even in the bursary debate last week he did not speak. For Jeremy Hunt to come to the demo and march with us would give both him and NHS students the opportunity to share opinions and experiences.

Let’s hope he listens to these plucky nurses more than he does the junior doctors. Although it is highly unlikely the embattled health secretary will listen to either.

“Falling on deaf ears” is a phrase quickly becoming most apt for Jeremy Hunt.


A portion of the writer’s fee for this article will be going to the Bursary or Bust campaign fund.

Get involved!

Support June’s day of action.

Write to Jeremy Hunt yourself.

Image via Cardiff Student Media.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed