Experts recommend waiving student loans to keep NHS staff in England

According to experts, certain England health workers should have their education loans dismissed after 10 years with the NHS. The Nuffield Trust says the financial incentive is needed to prevent "dropout" among nurses, midwives, and other front-line workers.

It cautioned that many trainees were dropping out or leaving the NHS soon after starting. Ministers rejected the proposal, citing existing backing.

The Nuffield Trust report is the most complete look into NHS trainees and careers. Physicians, nurses, midwives, and imaging experts like physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and radiographers were assessed.

In contrast, after analyzing student records and employment trends, the Nuffield Trust discovered that approximately one in eight prospective nurses, radiographers, and occupational therapists did not complete their training.

The Nuffield Trust stated that some former NHS employees may continue to work in the public sector for charities and private companies. The report noted, however, that a concerning trend could undermine efforts to increase the domestic supply of NHS staff.

The NHS relies largely on foreign recruitment, but the government launched a 15-year workforce strategy to train more health professionals in the summer.

The Nuffield Trust found no dropout rates among medical students, but there were signs that physicians were taking breaks and not returning.

It was stated that the student loan remission program could operate on a sliding scale, with three years of service reducing the amount by 30%, seven years by 70%, and ten years by 100%.

It was only suggested for nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals such as physiotherapists. It was stated that for physicians, a method of deferring loan repayment without accruing interest may be preferable.

It costs approximately £65,000 to train a typical nurse, and even if the loan is repaid in full over the following decades, it will not cover the total cost.

Senior fellow at the Nuffield Trust Billy Palmer stated, "These high dropout rates are in no one's best interest; they are wasteful for taxpayers, often distressing for the students and staff who leave, and erode the NHS's capacity to provide safe, high-quality care."

However, he stated that loan forgiveness would not be a panacea and that it would need to be accompanied by other measures, such as higher starting compensation and more support for new health workers.

Even in Scotland, where there are no tuition fees for Scottish students, and in Wales, where tuition fees are covered if nurses and other front-line personnel work for the NHS for two years, there are still problems.

Dean Rogers of the Society of Radiographers, who are presently on strike, expressed his approval of the proposal.

According to him, the low initial salary of less than £30,000 discourages people from training and remaining in the profession.

He mentioned that even after receiving a degree and working as a radiographer for many years, a lot of their members are unable to afford to relocate out of their parents' home. 

DHSC spokesperson: "The current student finance system strikes an appropriate balance between the interests of students and taxpayers." We work with NHS England to minimize student attrition and support them throughout training.

This includes a training grant of at least £5,000 per year for eligible nursing, midwifery, and allied health students, as well as support for childcare and certain expenses.