By Jenness Mitchell & Steven Brown
Paramedic students in Scotland are to receive an annual bursary of £10,000 as part of a new scheme, the Scottish Government has announced.
An estimated 668 students will be eligible for the Paramedic, Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary (PNMSB) for courses starting this September.
The number of eligible students is expected to rise to almost 900 next year.
Scottish-domiciled paramedic students who have already applied for undergraduate student funding do not need to reapply.
The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) will automatically reassign students to the new funding package.
The new award, which will be paid over 12 months each academic year, was unveiled on Thursday by health secretary Humza Yousaf during a visit to an ambulance station in Dundee where he met paramedic students.
Yousaf said: “The introduction of this bursary for our paramedic students fulfils this government’s pledge to bolster support for this crucial service.
“Paramedics have been a driving force in maintaining NHS services throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and I am determined to ensure we attract and support the next generation of these vital workers.
“Scottish student paramedics, studying in Scotland, will be able to apply for a bursary of £10,000 a year, compared with the £5000 bursary announced last year by the UK Government in England.
“These Scottish paramedic students can also apply for other associated additional allowances.
“Scottish paramedic students studying in the rest of the UK will continue to receive the current undergraduate funding package of tuition fee loan, income-assessed living cost loans and bursary, as well as other additional grants they may be entitled to.
“Our allied health professionals are the third largest part of our NHS workforce and this announcement underlines our determination to remobilise the service as we emerge safely from the pandemic lockdown.”
Pauline Howie, chief executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said it was “fantastic news” for current and prospective students across the country.
She added: “They are an important part of our workforce and this announcement will be a real boost which will help encourage the paramedics of the future.
“Our staff do an amazing job each day and this additional financial support is welcome.
“Student paramedics have been in paid employment in a variety of roles during the pandemic and we are continuing to recruit additional staff across a variety of roles to help further improve services for patients.”
The bursary, which is already open to nursing and midwifery students, will start in September.
A campaign had been set up to try and ensure those studying for the profession were given the same financial support as nursing students.
Unison, which called for the creation of the support, had warned of a future shortage of paramedics if no assistance was created.
David O’Connor from Unison said: “The brutal reality is that being a paramedic is an extremely difficult and stressful job. Many are facing burnout and say they are thinking of leaving.
“Even before the pandemic the service was struggling with our members facing the major part of the burden, feeling unsupported and often working a shift without an uninterrupted break or indeed a rest break.
“Without this support, Scotland could be facing a critical shortage of paramedics, given the aging workforce, and the announced increase in paramedic numbers to deliver the modern service.”
The SNP had pledged in their manifesto to introduce the financial help and there had been pressure from opposition parties to provide the assistance.
The Liberal Democrats’ Liam McArthur said: “Student paramedics will breathe a sigh of relief when they hear that a bursary will be in place for the new term start.
“Given the government’s initial reluctance, it’s welcome that they’ve changed their tune.
“The sector is crying out for new recruits, and the stories of students on the breadline qualifying as a paramedic simply wasn’t an accessible career choice.
“This bursary is the first step towards changing that.”
The £10,000 will be available to students who reside in Scotland. Those from elsewhere will continue to receive tuition fee loans.
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