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The NHS bursary is a needless subsidy for high-earning former medical students. Now would be an excellent time to scrap it.

Each year the NHS spends billions on training staff and students across a large range of health professions. A small fraction of that funding – the NHS Bursary – covers some of the tuition fees and living costs of medical and dental students.1 Given the workforce challenges facing the NHS, and the challenging fiscal context we as a country find ourselves in, it has never been more important to ensure that health education is funded and organised efficiently. A first step towards that would be scrapping the NHS Bursary, which does not provide value for money.

The NHS Bursary is a grant for students of medicine or dentistry in the later stages of their course. For undergraduates in England, it covers full tuition fees and some living costs. For graduate-entry students, tuition fees are only partly covered. Both tuition fee and living cost grants replace government student loans that students would otherwise be eligible for.2

How much support a student receives depends in complex ways on their specific circumstances (the full rules run to more than 100 pages). Most students are eligible for between £10,000 and £14,000 in the final year of their course only, but some students receive substantially more, spread over more than one year. There are no up-to-date numbers available for the overall cost of the programme, but the available evidence suggests that it adds up to a bit more than £100 million per year. This amount can be expected to double in real terms by 2031 as places to study medicine or dentistry in England are set to nearly double under the NHS workforce plan from a baseline of 8,000 to around 16,000.3

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