Danielle, a student nurse at Kings College London, spoke to Solidarity about the campaign to stop the government scrapping bursaries for nursing students.
How did the campaign get started?
I was in the library one day found myself getting annoyed about the bursary cuts, and the wider picture of the NHS — I was really furious. I started an event for a protest and 300 people said they were coming within an hour. It escalated from there. I needed some help, so I put out a message for a meeting in the uni, and we set up a committee. We’ve set up a national committee from there. So that’s how it started — being angry!
What do you think about what is happening to the NHS?
They’re privatising it — look at what they’ve done to the doctors, I find that really sad. They’re pushing the NHS to destruction. I qualify in July. I know I’m coming in at the worst possible time —the government aren’t going to stop.
I did a six week placement in A&E before Christmas. I’d do nights, get no breaks, I’d watch nurses get no breaks. Because of all the A&E closures in West London, it’s jam-packed. It’s horrible. All healthcare professionals come into this to help people, and they’re treated appallingly.
What’s been the response so far?
It’s been incredible! People are really supportive of us. We had 5,000 people on our demonstration on 9 January. It wasn’t just students; there were qualified staff, doctors. We’ve been leafleting in hospitals in London. The wider public has been great. I’ll stop in a shop and tell people what’s been going on. Student nurses work so hard, and everyone is behind us.
We’re going to do a one hour walkout on the 10 February. They’re going to have a consultation in parliament — they’re still going to do it, of course — but we need to have demos all over the UK. We need to be outside Parliament making as much noise as we can.
I’ve planned a debate and I’ve asked Ben Gummer (Health Minister) if he’ll come; he’s said he’ll send someone. I’ve asked someone from Labour, too. I’d encourage everyone to do that.
We’re looking at a bigger combined march on different aspects of austerity. We need to keep the pressure on. If this walkout is a success we’ll do more in the future.
What do you think of student nurses joining unions and taking strike action?
I think it would be amazing. The NHS would fall apart without the students. We hold it together. We take the place of staff who have been cut. Not that I would ever want to jeopardise care, but we hold it together: so a strike would be really effective. I don’t think the government realise how hard we work and how much we contribute to the NHS.
I am a member of Unison, Unite and RCN. I’m covering them all!
Other nurses should join the national committee for the NHS Bursary Campaign. What would be really good is if they spoke to members of the public and other nurses and formed their own committee. Then we need to collaborate, all together, to plan massive national actions. They came for the doctors, for the students, and then they’re coming for the nurses and midwives. If we don’t unite now and stand against this, in the bigger picture we are going to lose everything.
I think nursing students haven’t been active before for years. I think the junior doctors thing is buoying them up. What they’re doing with the doctors, it fits in with the bigger picture. People are figuring out what’s going on. I think at my uni previously people thought some of us, the activists were a bit mad, but they’re coming on board now.
The junior doctors at KCL have really helped, and one in particular has put us in touch with loads of people. We’re all in this, we’re not different professions, we’re one profession because we want the best for our patients.