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'Bursary or Bust' campaigners take their fight to Westminster. Photo: Facebook/Shelly Asquith

'Bursary or Bust' campaigners take their fight to Westminster. Photo: Facebook/Shelly Asquith

Student nurses will be joining the Convoy to Calais on 18 June. Danielle Tiplady from Bursary or Bust explains why

Refugees are very much welcomed in this country by NHS staff, yet the government expects us to police them. We have to check their passports see if they are eligible for care. Unbelievable, isn’t it? 

Only a few weeks ago I was with a patient who was seeking asylum. The ‘overseas team’ had been in touch to find out about funding for this patient’s care. A judgement by the Court of Appeal has now made it the law that failed asylum seekers cannot be exempt from charges even after spending a year in the UK.

This outrageous law puts a price on a life. I am not a border guard. I am not a police woman. I am not a passport controller. I am a nurse. My job is to provide care for all. This is a basic human right and it’s my job to administer it. 

The Tories refuse to admit children into this country who are simply seeking some basic shelter. These are children who have suffered in conflict, fled their family homes, or lost their parents. This is not much to ask. Many of these children and other refugees are ultimately compelled to return to the places they have fled.

Skills

We see daily the most terrifying situations refugees are forced to live in, whether this is the outright destruction of Syria, or people drowning in the seas. These harrowing situations cannot continue. 

That’s the most important reason why ‘Bursary or Bust’ students will be joining the Convoy to Calais on 18 June. But we too have our own reasons for protesting against the government fighting. They are removing our bursary – a grant, effectively – and introducing hefty loans of up to £64,000. 

This will clearly be a massive deterrent to go into nursing, midwifery, social work and the associated healthcare professions. As healthcare students we gain a number of different skills from the start of our programme.

Compassion 

Within our practice we have a supernumerary status. This means we are additional to the clinical workforce. Yet in reality we are an integral part of the team. Without NHS students our healthcare service would fall apart. We plug the gaps that are created by chronic underfunding by this Tory government.

As a student nurse, one of my essential qualities is to care and show compassion to others. This government forgets that we are the staff who are there throughout a patient’s journey; to hold their hand through times when they feel vulnerable, to comfort the family when bad news is broken or to share a tender moment of fun with them, despite what is going on medically with that person.

This is why the bursary cuts are a disaster; we are fundamentally there to support people when they need it the most. In Calais we can demonstrate these skills. We can show refugees the love and compassion they deserve. 

When student nurses put all these issues together it’s clear that joining the Convoy to Calais is going to be a campaign priority for us.  We say refugees are welcome here. Our government is not.

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