Open Letter to The Scottish Government

Our open letter calls on the Scottish Government to establish a bursary for Student Paramedics that is equal to that of Student Nurses and Midwives.

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I write to you as a resident of [INSERT YOUR CONSTITUENCY] to seek your support with regards to the request for a bursary for BSc Paramedic Science students in Scotland.

Paramedic Students across Scotland are studying to become highly trained medical practitioners, who are responsible for making life-saving decisions under intense pressure whilst also putting patients and their families at ease during difficult situations. Combining social skills with vast medical knowledge is a unique ability, and one that paramedic students master during their degree.

The Paramedic Science course consists of 50% theory work and 50% placement work. The unpaid placement hours worked match that of a fully qualified paramedic, working long strenuous shifts, day and night. Due to the structure of the programme and the amount of content that must be covered in the span of three years the course runs into the summer, giving students only two weeks of summer leave. This means that students will not be able to work over the summer.

Paramedic students are not entitled to a bursary in Scotland however student nurses and midwives receive an NHS bursary of up to £8,000 annually, rising to £10,000 in 20/2021, since 50% of their course is unpaid placement in which they work the same hours as a fully qualified nurse or midwife. Student nurses, student midwives and student paramedics are all obliged to complete a three year degree, with equal hours of completed placements. So why are student paramedics not offered an equal bursary?

Moreover, if student paramedics choose to, they are entitled to a maximum student loan of £6,250 per annum which over the duration of their degree amounts to a staggering student debt of £18,750. In comparison, the bursary received by student nurses and midwives is almost 24.6% more than the student loan offered to student paramedics and as previously mentioned this bursary is due to rise to £10,000 which will result in this additional support rising to 46% more than that of student paramedics with nursing and midwifery students graduating with zero student loan debt.

A report published by the Scottish Government on 22nd March 2019 saw Paramedics on the occupation shortage list within the Scottish Health and Social Care sector. On 4th June 2020 the UK Government updated their Immigration Rules (Appendix K), the occupation shortage list, which again saw Paramedics listed in short supply across the UK as a whole. The Government has since reviewed the eligibility of student paramedics in England for access to the NHS England bursary scheme which allows students access to an additional funding package of £5,000 to aid towards the cost of their living expenses and additional unexpected study costs (e.g. stethoscope, placement expenses). This package allows students in England to receive an additional £3,000, subject to criteria (i.e. towards childcare costs, studying in a region that is struggling to recruit).

The additional support for student paramedics would ease the financial stresses currently faced in an already highly pressured and emotive area of study. This in turn would allow students to focus solely on becoming Scotland’s paramedics of tomorrow allowing them to achieve a study-life balance ensuring they have time to maintain their mental and physical health.

The Scottish Government should be providing the financial support needed to fill this occupation shortage. I am asking you to write to the Health Minister, Jeana Freeman MSP, and ask her to establish a bursary for student paramedics in Scotland to begin in October 2020.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,