Paramedic Funding Issues

Our Union President takes the issue to Government

Paramedic Funding Issues

 

What’s the issue? 

Currently in England, students who decide to study Paramedic Science as a second undergraduate degree are unable to access financial support from the NHS Learning Support Fund. However, students who study other health profession courses such as Nursing and Midwifery as a second undergraduate degree are eligible for the support. 

This makes Paramedic Science as a second undergraduate degree very inaccessible to students across the country, including here at Canterbury Christ Church. Many students don’t even realise that they don’t qualify for the funding because of the lack of clarity in the NHS and government guidance. 

Why is this the case?

Anna Tims, writing in The Guardian, says: “The reason, according to the Department of Health and Social Care, is because paramedic science was only granted degree status in 2018 and therefore missed out when, in 2017, funding reforms allowed other healthcare courses to qualify for student loans. Since it became compulsory last September for new paramedics to hold a BSc degree, that effectively bars all but the most affluent of mature students from the profession.”

She continues: “Many who were inspired by the pandemic to join the NHS say they are being treated as second-class applicants because an outdated policy has excluded them from loans and grants available to almost all other mature healthcare students.”

The College of Paramedics say: “Given that students undertaking nursing, midwifery and other allied health profession courses as a second degree are eligible for funding, it is simply not fair or just to financially penalise those who want to study paramedic science.”

Has it affected our students?

The initial issue was raised to the Students’ Union Council on the 30th November 2021 by the Union Council Chair and Paramedic Student Benjamin D’Montigny 

“The NHS LSF is a fantastic way of financing the additional costs incurred with a healthcare course, including personal issue equipment, travel and accommodation costs to placement, and supporting students with dependents such as children.

“However, the fund is not eligible to those who are not in receipt of a SFE loan for the most part, and this denies students who fall in this category a significant amount of money. Not only are they denied £15,000 of funds over a three-year course, they are also not afforded the ability to claim expenses such as mileage. The latter was originally provided by the University prior to the LSF being available, but was removed.”

The Chair wanted to open a campaign and voice to the university the lack of support to those who fall outside the NHS LSF, such as second degree paramedics, who have to self support and incur large financial costs to train to work in the emergency services of the NHS.

A vote was passed by the Union Council to open this dialogue with the university after hearing several anecdotal accounts of students not receiving NHS funding and struggling with financial obligations of placements on top of the transport costs, and students needing to pay to be able to practise in their placements.

“Students are having to pay out £300-500 which creates a barrier - if you can’t complete placements, you can’t graduate” said one student at the Union Council Meeting.

This dialogue continued through subsequent Union Council meetings with the Union President giving updates from various research panels and his attempts at opening the discussions with the University.

At the Union Council meeting on 23rd May 2022, students had reported that some paramedic students were resorting to using foodbanks due to lack of reimbursement and delays in any funding assistance.

What have we done about it?

In a meeting with Canterbury Labour MP Rosie Duffield, we raised this issue, with Rosie promising to put a written question to the Government, which is: ‘To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, for what reason students studying for a Paramedic Science degree course as their second degree are not eligible for grants from the NHS Learning Support Fund.’

You can see the question on the UK Parliament website here

The question was answered on 16th June 2022 

by Edward Argar, Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care).

“Second Degree Paramedicine students are not eligible for support from the Student Loans Company and therefore, are not eligible for the NHS Learning Support Fund.

“The Department of Health and Social Care is in discussions with the Department for Education about providing an Equivalent or Lower Qualification exemption to the student finance rules for paramedicine. Subject to the outcome of these discussions and availability of the necessary funding, those studying paramedicine as a second degree could access tuition fee and maintenance loan support if eligible and if so, would have access to the NHS Learning Support Fund.

“The Government keeps the funding arrangements for all pre-registration National Health Service health professionals’ education under review, to ensure that students are appropriately supported. In doing so, it must make use of finite financial resources to balance the level of support students receive with the need to make best use of public funds to deliver value for money.”

Edward Argar is the Conservative MP for Charnwood, and has been an MP continuously since 7 May 2015.

Where do we go from here?

We will closely monitor the government changes to funding schemes for Health students and as soon as there is any change we will be lobbying the university to support students during the transition period between not being eligible and then being eligible for exemption from previous study for Paramedic Science funding. We will be looking to ensure that students are clearly informed of the funding options especially if there is due to be a change in the current legislation. 

We would like to thank the members of the Union Council who raised this issue in the first place and hope to be offering good news to second degree Paramedic students in the future.