The NHS is one of the world’s largest employers, with around 1.5 million employees. But as our population ages, medical science advances and the pandemic forces a massive increase in the work the NHS does, it’s increasingly experiencing staffing shortages.
As a result, if you’re an aspiring doctor, dentist, nurse or other health professional, the NHS is keen for you to train up and work for them. So keen, in fact, that you may be eligible for extra funding while you’re on your course!
Whether you’re only scouting out your options, you’ve accepted a place on a course or you’re actually in the middle of your studies, you might be surprised to find out about the level of support you’re entitled to.
In this article, we’ll be covering the NHS bursary schemes in England. We’ll discuss how the bursaries work, which courses they apply to, how much you might receive and how to apply for them.
Which courses does the NHS fund?
The NHS offers support to students of Medicine and Dentistry through the NHS Bursary scheme. This supports medical students to finish their degrees as their graduation date approaches.
However, the NHS also offers support to most other British healthcare students through their degrees. Confusingly, most of these students also refer to their support as a “bursary” or their “NHS bursary”. Despite the essential similarities, these students are actually in receipt of the NHS’ Learning Support Fund — which covers professions like Nursing, Paramedics, Midwifery and Occupational Therapy, among others.
We’ll look at both in turn, taking the NHS Bursary first.
The NHS Bursary
This scheme applies mainly to medical and dental students in years five and six of their degrees. It also applies to those pursuing an accelerated post-grad course in medicine after studying another subject.
The medical bursary offers four different kinds of support: a means-tested grant, a flat grant of £1,000, contribution to late-course tuition fees, and special funding targeted at those with disabilities or those raising children. It runs in parallel to the ordinary student finance system, which offers slightly lowered (but still substantial) levels of funding to late-stage medical and dental students.
Doctors-and-dentists-in-training can claim up to £3,643 of bursary if studying away from home outside London, and up to £4,191 in London. This includes the flat £1,000 on offer to all eligible students. If you’re living with your parents while studying, you’ll be eligible for slightly less.
This comes in addition to the tuition fee bursary, which covers up to £9,250 (i.e. the whole year’s fee) for undergraduates in years 5 and 6 of medical and dental degrees, and up to £3,715 of fees for the second, third and fourth years of graduate-entry courses.
There are a few eligibility criteria based on your nationality and how long you’ve spent in the country, which you can find on the NHS Business Services Authority website.
Finally, those eligible for the bursary may also be able to apply for special support based on their status as parents, disabled people or providers for dependent persons. This support can be quite substantial — the NHS has invested a lot of money into fifth-year medical students and is keen to help them until the end of their studies.
There is also very limited discretionary support available to students in extreme financial hardship, which can provide a lifeline to those in tricky circumstances.
Please note, of course, that all information given about the funding available applies only to the 2020/21 academic year, with the conditions subject to change in future years.
The NHS Learning Support Fund
This funding scheme is for non-medical healthcare students in England. The majority of skilled workers in the NHS aren’t doctors or dentists, after all. Health professionals of various disciplines play vital parts in keeping the NHS running on a day to day basis, with many senior roles available to late-career nurses and AHPs.
If you’re a nurse, a midwife or an AHP (Allied Health Professional) in training, you’re probably eligible for £5,000 a year in support of your studies and living expenses. This can increase by up to £1,000 if you’re studying a so-called “specialist subject” like radiography, podiatry or mental health nursing, or if you’re studying in an area that’s experiencing a severe recruitment shortage.
In marked contrast to the medical NHS Bursary scheme, this support is offered to students at all stages of their degrees. It also comes alongside full access to the mainstream student finance system, which offers tuition fee and means-tested maintenance loans to university students.
The LSF might be particularly attractive for parents or mature students, offering £2,000 to those with children and further discretionary support based on your income level.
Again, remember that all information is current only at the time of writing, and may become inaccurate as time goes on.
How does an NHS bursary work?
The medical NHS Bursary scheme does not automatically enrol eligible students — you’ll have to apply for it. You can read more about the fairly quick and easy application here, and even get started on filling out the form if applications are open.
As a general rule, applications are due two months before the month your course begins. Last academic year, students beginning in September had to get their applications in by the 31st July, but you should check the dates online for your academic year. You can also apply within the first nine months of the academic year, though you may not receive the full bursary or tuition fee relief.
The bursary is paid in 12 monthly instalments, which works for some people and not others!
For the NHS LSF, applications usually open in the middle of the summer — 1st July, for the 2020/21 academic year. As a rule, try to send in your form as soon as you can to make sure you receive full support from the very beginning of the year.
Is there other support for NHS trainees?
After the heroics the nation witnessed during the peaks of the coronavirus pandemic, key workers are increasingly able to access support from a broader array of sources.
First off, students and workers will often be able to obtain a discount on groceries, meals out, clothing and large purchases like furniture. This depends on the vendor’s discretion, but many large chains and local shops either already had discount schemes or started one during the pandemic. If you’re savvy, NHS discounts can save you a good chunk of cash annually!
In terms of more concrete financial support, NHS students and workers in the North of England and Scotland may be eligible to join the NHS Credit Union. Owned by its members, the union offers loans and saving schemes to members at very reasonable rates.
Finally, at Salad Money, we also offer financial support to NHS employees. We’re a social enterprise set up to improve the financial well-being of NHS staff across the country — many of whom are forced to rely on payday borrowing, credit card debt or taking a second job to pay the bills.
At Salad Money, we offer stop-gap loans to NHS staff at fair rates. Whether you’re an eligible student, a trainee or a working health professional, our lending is transparent, fair and speedy — and we’ll never lend more than you can afford to pay back.
Want to find out more?
For further information, read more about the medical NHS bursary, the LSF, and some of the available NHS discounts. You can find further information about the NHS credit union in our article on credit unions, and explore more about Salad Money on our website.