Health educators respond to earn and learn support premiums

17 December 2018

The Council of Deans of Health has responded to a leaked proposal to provide mature students, over 25 years old, with a £5,000 incentive to become learning disability or mental health nurses. The proposal is reported to be part of the delayed NHS long-term plan.

Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, Chair of the Council of Deans of Health, said:

‘These are leaked proposals and we need to see details of the plans to be able to comment fully. However, if this is an accurate reflection of the long-term plan’s proposals, we would urge the Government to reconsider its proposals in order to support recruitment to all parts of the nursing workforce and healthcare professions’.

In 2016/17 there were 5,500 students aged 25 and over on mental health and learning disability nursing courses (59% of students on these courses) but 17,600 mature students studying adult nursing (47% of the total number). Adult nursing is experiencing severe shortages with one in eight nursing posts vacant. Universities reported difficulties recruiting students to learning disability, mental health and adult nursing courses in 2018/19 with adult nursing posing greater problems for some universities than mental health courses.

Professor Webster-Henderson said:

‘The healthcare professions have a history of attracting large numbers of mature students, particularly to mental health and learning disability nursing, and this part of the student body appears to have been deterred by the introduction of tuition fees and removal of the bursary. The Council has called for increased support to attract and retain mature students but this proposal, if accurate, is unlikely to solve the current recruitment problems. A total support package of £5,000 would not fully reflect the difficulties student nurses face in supplementing their student finances across their intensive nursing studies. An annual £5,000 grant would go further in helping these students but would do nothing to help recruit to adult nursing or to support younger nursing students. There is a real risk that piecemeal solutions like this create unintended consequences by encouraging students to delay study or diverting students from adult nursing or other healthcare careers.’



  1. The Council of Deans of Health is the voice of the deans and heads of UK university faculties for nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions.
  2. For more information on this press release, please contact Jon Eames, 07496 693806.

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