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On politics: Searching for the truth

9 March, 2016

On politics: Searching for the truth

When Chancellors of the Exchequer make big set-piece speeches in parliament, the government publishes hundreds of pages of detailed announcements at the same time.

Only a very small number of these, usually the generous, popular bits, make it into the chancellor’s script. Here at the RCM, we know that when we look at the TV in the press office and see the chancellor stand up in parliament, we need to get our hands on those big documents and find the nasty bits he’s hidden away.

This is exactly how we found out about the government’s plans to scrap bursaries for student midwives in England, as well as for student nurses, physios and others. We also found their plan to impose full tuition fees on healthcare students too. No mention of this passed the chancellor’s lips as he made his big spending review statement to the House of Commons in late November. It was all buried away. But, unfortunately for the government and their spin doctors, we spotted it.

For student midwives who start their training from September next year, this means graduating with debts of up to £60,000. For the one in three student midwives who have already studied for a university degree before they start their midwifery training – and who, therefore, already have big student debts – it could mean as much as £100,000 of debt. The figures are eye-watering.

The response from today’s student midwives in defence of tomorrow’s students has been amazing. Along with nursing students and others, they have gathered over 150,000 signatures on a petition to MPs, triggering a parliamentary debate. They have protested outside the Department of Health, and marched in London, Manchester, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Nottingham. The issue has been raised twice at prime minister’s question time, with the RCM’s opposition specifically mentioned.

This is where we ask you to help us, and help campaigning student midwives too. If you live in England, email or write to your MP to ask them to speak out against these plans. Even if you live in Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland, you might want to contact your MP, as the knock-on effect of cutting the money that goes to student midwives and nurses could mean less money is available to the governments in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh to spend on services like the NHS.

It’s very simple to contact your local MP. All you have to do is go to writetothem.com, input your postcode, and take it from there.

The colossal size of the new debts is breathtaking. Newly qualified midwives face paying back tens of thousands of pounds, which could take up to 30 years, just so they can work in the NHS. It’s an appalling way to treat people who will give a lifetime of public service. Let’s hope that together we can get the government to change its mind.

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