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Monday, 25 January, 1999, 18:16 GMT
University U-turn over nurse uniforms
Nursing unions say the proposed uniform charge gave the wrong message
A university has been forced to back down over controversial plans to charge student nurses for their uniforms after Health Secretary Frank Dobson intervened in the row.

Kingston-upon-Thames University was planning to charge students for the uniforms because it says they are"essential equipment" which should be paid for out of a nurse's 5,300-a-year bursary.

It argued that its February intake of 100 student nurses had been informed at interview of the need to pay for their uniforms.

And it said physiotherapy and radiography students at the university already pay for uniforms.

However, after protests from nursing leaders, Department of Health officials told the university it would be in breach of its 8m contract to train nurses if it introduced the policy.

Speedy action

Mr Dobson said: "As soon as I heard about this proposal I asked my officials to investigate it immediately and put a stop to it.

"We have already issued guidance that this should not be happening and we will be reinforcing that guidance again."

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has welcomed the decision and hopes it will be applied nationally.

Tom Bolger, its assistant general secretary, said: "We are delighted by this speedy action and would like to see it applied across the UK."

"Charging students for their uniforms is a snub to the very people upon whom the future of the NHS depends at this time of severe nurse shortages."

The RCN says several universities have started charging students for their uniforms in recent months.

It has successfully challenged some cases. It believes the government took action over the Kingston case because of recent public debate over nurses' pay.

See also:

30 Dec 98 | Health
Agency nurse costs soar in NHS
08 Jan 99 | Health
Dobson admits health crisis
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