Would-be paramedics hit with £27,500 bill to retrain for vital service

Professionals who want to retrain as paramedics are facing tough financial decisions after discovering they are barred from government funding.

Many who were inspired by the pandemic to join the 国民保健服务 say they are being treated as second-class applicants because an outdated policy has excluded them from loans and grants available to almost all other mature healthcare students.

Since September, trainees must complete a university (BSc) degree to qualify as a paramedic. 然而, paramedic science, unlike other NHS professions, is ineligible for a student loan if studied as a pre-registration (second) degree course in England. Those wanting to join ambulance crews face £27,500 tuition fees.

They are also barred from receiving a £5,000-a-year NHS maintenance bursary launched in 2020 to encourage healthcare recruitment. Most pre-registered students studying related subjects are eligible for the money, which is not means tested. Mature students in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland qualify for varying degrees of government support.

The English funding anomaly means that a paramedic seeking to retrain as a nurse or a dentist can apply for a student loan and an NHS learning support grant, whereas a nurse or dentist who wants to retrain as a paramedic will have to fund fees and training expenses, as well as living costs, themselves.

Emergency services representatives say the policy is a barrier to would-be paramedics on low incomes at a time when staff shortages have forced ambulance services to recruit from Australia.

去年七月, 这 NHS announced investment worth £55m in ambulance trusts to boost numbers before a winter that, 在一月, saw the highest level of emergency call outs ever recorded.

College of Paramedics 说: “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.”

Some students are unaware that they don’t qualify for the learning support fund when they start their training, because the exemption is not clear in NHS and government guidance. 这 NHS careers website, 例如, promises that paramedic students will receive “annual payments of at least £5,000” without mentioning that mature students don’t qualify.

First-year student Atiha Gupta is having to give up her accommodation and move in with her parents after discovering that she was not entitled to the bursary. The 33-year-old playwright decided to switch careers during the pandemic.

“The prospect of a bursary, which was promoted as non-means tested, was the deciding factor because my income was very low,“ 她说. “When I applied, I was told I am not eligible because, with a degree in politics, I don’t qualify for a student loan. Paramedics are clinicians who go into unstable, dangerous environments. I feel we are not valued.”

Critics claim the profession is being penalised by a government oversight. When funding for healthcare tuition was overhauled in 2017, an exemption to student finance rules allowed undergraduates studying healthcare as a second degree to apply for a government loan. Paramedicine was omitted because it had not yet been granted degree status. As a result it was not included in the new bursary scheme.

The first paramedic degrees were launched in 2018 and are now mandatory for new recruits. The Department of 健康 and Social Care says it is keeping the decision under review and that the funding policy must balance the support of students with the need to deliver maximum value for money for taxpayers. “Paramedics have shown immense commitment during the pandemic, working tirelessly to look after us and our loved ones,’’ it says. “We’re committed to supporting and growing the NHS workforce.”

Ruth Triggs, 25, graduated in criminology and forensics and worked as a 999 call handler for four years before deciding to retrain. “It’s such an intense course that I definitely would not have had the right frame of mind to do it straight out of school,“ 她说. “The system pushes us to make a decision about our whole career when we are so young, but I needed some more time to experience other workplaces and decide what career path I wanted to take.”

She was unaware that she did not qualify for student financing or the NHS bursary until she had started her course. She is now having to move to a cheaper flat and juggles a part-time job on top of her course work and regular 12-hour placements on call-outs.

Natalie Pavia enrolled as an undergraduate in paramedic science after she lost her job in the travel sector during the pandemic. The 39-year-old lives with her parents and doubts she will never own her own home because she’s had to use the deposit she had saved to fund her training and living expenses.

“Not being eligible for student finance cuts me off from other incentives,“ 她说. “I cannot apply for travel expenses when I’m on placement like other students and don’t qualify for university bursaries for students who live at home.”

Gupta fears that without the bursary she had counted on, she will have to drop out of a course she loves. 当让-巴特因《卫报》的调查而被禁止时 13 my brother died, and the sense of hope when the paramedics arrived has stayed with me. I desperately want to be part of the solution to the problem of staff shortages,“ 她说. “The NHS is celebrated with the now ubiquitous rainbows in windows but sadly without that promised pot of gold.”

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