The #LiveableNHSBursary campaign was created by Eilidh to help raise awareness about the substantial drop in funding medical students face in their fifth and sixth years and the drastic effect it is having on students across the country. Penny described how the cut comes at perhaps the most crucial part of their course: “As you’re going into your final year, your most difficult year, you’re essentially taking a £5,000 pay cut.”
Currently, medical students are provided with full funding for their first four years of study, once they move into fifth and sixth year the funding plummets by half, from around £10,000 to just under £5,000. This is due to Student Finance England only fully funding students for four years of study.
Once medical students progress to fifth and sixth year they transfer onto the NHS Bursary system, but, unlike most other healthcare students, they are not entitled to the same level of funding. Medical students are only allowed to take a maximum “top up” student maintenance loan of £1,975 per year, roughly £8,000 less than the standard for all other students.
Medical students do, however, receive a means-tested NHS bursary which can vary from anywhere between £2,207 to £3,191 with an additional non-means-tested £1000 grant. But other healthcare students, such as nursing students, receive a £5,000 non-means-tested NHS bursary for each academic year. This NHS bursary has proved invaluable for some and has supported them whilst they pursue their careers in healthcare.
When asked about the financial support available for medical students, a University of Manchester spokesperson said: “The University has invested in one of the most generous support packages in the UK for students in financial hardship; approximately a third of all our undergraduate UK students will receive bursaries of up to £2,000 per year. This includes the University’s Living Cost Support Fund and more information is available here and here. The Royal Medical Benevolent Fund also offers specific support to medical students.
The #LiveableNHSBursary campaign aims to achieve: parity between medical students and other healthcare courses, have the means test removed, and give all medical students full access to the NHS learning support fund.
Medical students are also expected to complete unpaid clinical placements alongside their studies which often leads to students struggling to juggle their responsibilities. Penny explained the lengths some students are going to in an attempt to pay their bills: “You’re on placement five times a week on 9 til 5 shifts, going home and studying for three or four hours or going straight to work. Some students work night shifts and double weekend shifts just to make ends meet.”
On the subject of clinical placements, a University of Manchester spokesperson said: “All clinical placements form part of a medical student’s studies; it is an essential part of learning to be a doctor and preparing to practise medicine safely. As students become more senior, they take on more tasks, safely supervised, within the clinical teams they are on placement with – this is so they are ready to start working as a doctor when they graduate.”
Penny told us the goal of the movement on Twitter “ … is about encouraging people to share their stories of living on such a small amount in their final year.” The hashtag has already garnered considerable interest on Twitter with several students’ stories going viral. She said, “we’ve already seen stories of people working two jobs, people not being able to pay their rent and people struggling to plan their jobs/lives around placement rotas.”
A post shared on Twitter by a medical student confirmed the struggles faced by many students “I currently have two jobs to help fund Uni. This is on top of balancing placement time, academic opportunities and socialising/relaxing. I feel like I have no time to destress and my mental and physical health has suffered as a result. #LiveableNHSbursary”.