Demonstration for the NHS in Bristol. Picture Jack Hazeldine Demonstration for the NHS in Bristol. Picture Jack Hazeldine

A student nurse describes why the fight for bursaries is part of a wider struggle

Student nurses work incredibly hard.

We work in the NHS on placements where we do the same shifts as other nurses and work alongside them carrying out many of the same duties.

And that is at the same time as doing a degree.

To do this student nurses get a bursary.  It isn’t much, it’s barely enough to live on whilst training.

Unbelievably the Tories want to take this away from us and replace it with a loan

Interns at least work for nothing. Student nurses will in effect have to pay to work for the NHS.

Most will finish with a debt of something like £64,000. That used to be, before the housing boom, cost of a first time buyer’s house. This is a massive debt to start your working life with.

Also the repayments will be deducted from our monthly salary in the future. Nurses are hardly paid enough now (and even this is shrinking with just 1% wage rises) let alone with money taken out.

This is also not only basically unjust, it will also affect the type of people who go into nursing.

People from minorities, working class people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, already the people hardest hit by austerity (not to mention the previous thirty years of austerity) will be put off from joining nursing, another profession that will become the preserve of the privileged sons and daughters of the middle class.

What happened to all the talk about diversity and opportunity. It turned out to be just that.

But student nurses are fighting back. We have gone onto the streets to take our case to the people. We had a demonstration of thousands outside Downing Street and had a two hour walk out. We will be having another on 6 April.

We recognise that the assault on us and our bursaries is part of the wider assault on the NHS and the idea that should be paid for out of public spending. Today they want us to pay to train in the NHS, tomorrow they will want people to pay for treatment.

That is why we see our struggle as part of one struggle to defend the NHS and we have been organising in solidarity with the junior doctors.

The fight is far from over, we can roll them back on this. The NHS (and their desire to destroy it) has always been the Tories’ Achilles heel. At present the ‘consultation’ process on bursaries is still going on. The People’s Assembly demonstration on 16 April will fall slap bang in the middle of it. We intend to bring as many people onto the streets that day, and march in the health bloc, to show that people will not stand for what the Tories are doing to the NHS.