Hospital bosses in Northampton are offering to pay the university fees of students in an attempt to increase the paltry number of nurses available in the town.
St Andrew’s Healthcare is offering a programme that helps healthcare staff retrain as mental health nurses, assisting them to apply to their course and giving them each £30,000 towards their studies over two years.
It is a response to news that from August next year, nursing students will have to take out student loans, which are on average £27,000 per person.
Lisa Powell, St Andrew’s Healthcare service director, said the combination of high university fees and low graduate pay could inflame the existing national shortage of nurses.
She said: “This has the potential to deter people from entering the field, particularly experienced health care workers who may already have the financial responsibilities of a family or other loans.
“As a charity provider it is already difficult to differentiate ourselves from the NHS which is well known and seen as a job for life, so we need to be proactive.
The mental health charity’s two-year Aspire programme will help 20 nurses each year.
Mrs Powell said St Andrew’s wants to head off a dearth in senior nurses that could hurt hospitals in future years.
She said “While we are concerned about the impact of these new changes, we are hopeful that by being proactive with our training we can help control some of the impact.
“Particularly in the field of mental health and disability, we cannot afford to leave recruitment and training to chance.”