Tory minister accused of making student nurses ‘feel worthless’

PUBLISHED: 10:05 22 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:03 23 June 2020

Care minister Helen Whately previously on Good Morning Britain. Photograph: ITV.

Care minister Helen Whately previously on Good Morning Britain. Photograph: ITV.

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A health minister has been accused of making student nurses ‘feel worthless’ after she wrote to one claiming they are ‘not deemed to be providing a service’.

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Helen Whately, the Conservative MP for Faversham and the government’s care minister, was responding to a letter calling for additional financial support for student nurses after the NHS bursary scheme was axed in 2015.

Good Morning Britain hosts Piers Morgan, Susanna Reid and Dr Hilary Jones were left unimpressed by her claims, accusing the MP of devaluing those that are a key part of the NHS.

Reading out part of the letter, Piers said: “I hope this reply is helpful says Helen Whately at the end of this letter.

“‘Now more than ever we value of the NHS workforce and appreciate the dedicated work they produce’”.


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The presenter continued: “Not really Helen.

“What you did was make every student nurse in the country feel worthless.

“You said they don’t provide a service. 2,300 hours of clinical practices that they undergo is not a service.”

The programme’s resident medic, Dr Hilary Jones, also leapt to the defence of student nurses.

“All I can tell you is that the student nurses I have worked with so far have been fantastic – just amazing.

“Some of them are looking after my elderly mum and have done a brilliant job.”

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He continued: “I would just say that before the pandemic the NHS was really rocking on its heels as it was under-resourced, under-funded and taken for granted.

“Now it has got through this immediate crisis and it has got a huge backlog of cancer and heart cases and all sorts of routine work to catch up on.

“The staff are exhausted. BMA has just released another piece of research that staff are so tired and really worried abut being able to manage a second spike and this is the way they treat student nurses.”

The letter from Whately went viral after it was posted on Twitter, with Labour’s shadow health secretary also criticising the comments.

Jonathan Ashworth MP said: “What an insult to hard-working student nurses many of whom gave up paid work to be on the frontline answering the call of duty at this time national COVID emergency.

“We should doing all we can to support student nurses. Another reason why ministers should follows Labour’s policy of restating a bursary.”

Whately later commented: “The whole country is grateful to student nurses for their heroic work on the NHS frontline during this unprecedented global pandemic.

“Supernumerary status for student nurses is a technical definition created to ensure they have the space and time to learn, and it is widely supported across the nursing profession.

MORE: Care minister accused of ‘laughing’ while being quizzed about coronavirus deaths

“There is a strong financial aid package for nurses and going forwards we have introduced even further support for nursing, midwifery and many allied health profession students consisting of a £5,000 to £8,000 grant to help with maintenance and associated study costs, which does not need to be paid back.”

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