Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Student

The NHS bursary: what am I entitled to?

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o561 (Published 23 March 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:o561

Rapid Response:

Re: The NHS bursary: what am I entitled to?

Dear Editor,

The funding for medical students is an important topic and we thank the authors for providing students with useful resources to aid their application for the NHS Bursary.

The case studies used in the article resonated with us as we are sure they did with many of our peers across the country. We thank the authors for using their personal circumstances to illustrate the financial challenges faced by medical students.

The circumstances discussed are likely representative of many medical students across the UK but only scratch the surface of the complexities of financing a medical degree.

Box 1 of the article demonstrates the drop in finance experienced by medical students. For clarity we feel it important to highlight the entitlements and how they change when switching from Student Finance to the NHS Bursary.

The maximum student finance maintenance loan available to students in years 1-4 is £9706. (1)

The maximum amount of funding available for students in years 5 and 6 reduces drastically.

A combination of Student Finance Loan (maximum £2535) and NHS Bursary (maximum £4483), leaves students with a maximum of £7,017 to live on (based on a 40 weeks term, living away from home, outside of London). (2)

Could you live off £7,017?

£7,017 to cover a year’s rent, a year's worth of bills and groceries and transport whilst on such an intense course.

Then there’s the additional costs that come with studying medicine: transport to placement, course resources, online revision aids and GMC registration fees which have to be paid before your first wage.

The University of Manchester estimated living costs for an undergraduate student to be at a staggering £10,330 for the 2021/2022 year(3).

£3,313 short.

If the student’s household income is £30,000 (the median household income in the UK), the NHS bursary automatically deduct £647. A 9.2% reduction in funding due to the expected contribution from the student’s household. This then leaves £6370 for the whole year. The NHS bursary ignores the fact that one would need a significant contribution from family to achieve a basic standard of living, and this contribution is simply not possible for most low-household income students.

Some of the further disadvantages faced by medical students have been previously discussed by Anna Harvey and Declan Murphy in their article published in 2019. (4)

With the recent focus on the rising cost of living, this reduction in finance is even more devastating. In February 2022, as a nation, we saw inflation reach its highest value since 1992, standing at 6.2%.(5)

There has been no reflection of these rising living costs for our medical students in receipt of the NHS Bursary.

This can be illustrated looking at the bursary available to medical students in 2012. For a 40 week course in 2012 a medical student would receive a maximum of £4050.(6) Inflation since 2012 has averaged 2.6% - The Bank of England inflation calculator states that £4050 in 2012, would be worth £5088.72 in 2021. (7) However, the amount of NHS Bursary available to students in 2022 is only £4483.

The discrepancy between the rate of inflation and the available finance shows a complete disregard for the quality of life of our medical students, especially those from widening participation backgrounds. Why should medical students in years 5-6 receive significantly less money compared to years 1-4?

We hope that, combined with the information presented by the authors in the original article and the points we have raised, medical students and hopeful applicants will be empowered to think about their finances. We strive to raise awareness of the financial strain faced by medical students, with the hope of gaining understanding from colleagues and a will to make change.

NB. The figures used are based on the information available on the referenced websites.

(1) https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/continuing-fulltime-students
(2) https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-bursary-students
(3) https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/experience/student-life/living-costs
(4) Disadvantages faced by poorer medical students must be challenged - The BMJ
(5) https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn02792/
(6) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa...).
(7) https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calc...

Competing interests: No competing interests

25 March 2022
Hetty J Breed
4th Year Medical Student
Michaela Vernon - 5th Year Medical Student
University of Manchester