Hundreds of nurses ‘hit by student loan errors’
Hundreds of nursing students at nine universities have been hit with errors in their student loan payments, the Royal College of Nursing says.
The students have been told they were mistakenly overpaid between £600 and £5,000 by the Student Loans Company and to expect no more payments this year.
The letters came months after money was received and is leaving some students struggling to pay bills and rent.
The Student Loans Company said it was aware of the issues.
It added: “We are also contacting the individual students affected to make them aware of the different options open to them.”
Emma Moss, studying at the University of West London, said: “I’m worried sick about being left with barely enough money to pay the rent, buy food and travel to work and university.”
She said the money problem was the last thing she needed in the final few months of her nursing degree.
Emma, like many of the others affected, was allegedly overpaid in September. In Emma’s case, the amount was £800.
Student loans are usually paid in three instalments throughout the year. This helps students with budgeting.
She said: “When I called the Student Loans Company in September to question my payments they told me that there was no error.
“Now they tell me that I owe almost £800 and will not be receiving my next instalment.
“If they take this money from me, I have no idea what I’m going to do next.”
Another student affected, Jessica Sainsbury, said: “The past couple of weeks turned the world upside down. Some of my peers see no other option than to drop out if they are unsuccessful with the hardship fund application from our university.”
Ewout Van Sabben, a third-year student of nursing at the University of West London, has been told he was overpaid about £5,000.
The news came as he prepared to present his final year dissertation.
“As well as being extremely upset, students are shocked at how the Student Loans Company have managed this situation, with information sent in dribs and drabs and some students notified weeks after their peers.”
Many students have been told they will not get any payments in April, as they would have been expecting, as they had already received the money.
The Royal College of Nursing, which has been supporting student nurses with their problems, has called on the SLC to write off the overpayments in order to avoid putting students into financial hardship.
RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: “Students budget according to loan forecast and a sudden withdrawal of payment can have disastrous results, such as inability to pay rent. This action comes at a critical time when students are studying for exams and projects.
“I am very concerned about the considerable amount of distress and disruption this error and subsequent action is causing. Student nurses, or indeed any students, are simply not in a position to cope with a sharp reduction in expected loan payments.”
It appears that the largest overpayments were made to poorer students due to receive maintenance grants as well as fee loans. It is believed the error may relate to changes in the nursing bursary scheme, which was scrapped for new entrants in 2017.
TV anchor Andrea McLean: ‘Give menopausal women M badges’
TV presenter Andrea McLean has said menopausal women should be offered “M” badges to wear on public transport, similar to badges for pregnant women.
Ms McLean, 48, who reached early menopause in her 30s, told the Daily Mail that fellow passengers should cut those suffering symptoms “some slack”.
ITV’s Loose Women anchor said menopause was “as natural as pregnancy” and that the badges would improve awareness.
She had a hysterectomy in 2016 after being diagnosed with endometriosis.
Ms McLean said she was still dealing with menopause symptoms a decade later, which can include hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, reduced libido and difficulty sleeping.
The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally as oestrogen levels decline.
The presenter, who had her first hot flush at 37, said badges with “M” or “hot flush” could help, comparable to Transport for London’s “Baby on Board!” and “Please offer me a seat” badges.
But whereas a pregnant woman may want a seat, she said someone experiencing a hot flush may want a window to be opened.
“If there was more knowledge out there I think male commuters would say, ‘OK, it’s fine, she’s burning up like a furnace, let her open the window, cut her a bit of slack,'” she said.
Ms McLean, who has two children, recently spoke to the Sun about commuting to work with sweat “running down her back” and battling “brain fog” symptoms while presenting.
She added: “Women wear badges now on the train that say baby on board and people let them have a seat.
“Nobody bats an eyelid and says, ‘Oh my God that’s horrendous, she’s got a baby in there – that’s so gross.'”
Her comments follow a recent BBC survey which found that 70% of women did not tell their bosses they were experiencing menopause symptoms.
Ms McLean recently started a project aimed at changing stereotypes surrounding women in their 40s and 50s.
Her website, This is Fifty, said that perceptions of the menopause were “bang out of date”.
It said: “Currently the menopause is [seen as] an obstacle, at this important life stage, rather than a rite of passage”.
Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s ambulance wait ‘catastrophe’
A hospital’s patients face “significant risk of harm on a daily basis”, ambulance service bosses have warned.
In private letters to the trust running Worcestershire Royal Hospital, they say it is down to delays getting people off ambulances and into the site.
In the correspondence – obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request – the hospital is also said to risk a “catastrophic situation”.
The trust said the experience of some patients was not what it wanted.
Mark Docherty, director of clinical commissioning for West Midlands Ambulance Service, wrote twice in February to Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust chief executive Michelle McKay.
He stated that during the first 16 days of the month, 215 ambulances had spent more than an hour outside the hospital.
And he said on 16 February, 10 ambulances waited more than three hours to take patients inside.
“I believe that Worcestershire Royal Hospital is now at a level of concern that requires immediate and radical action if we are to avoid a catastrophic situation,” he wrote.
He also said the situation had deteriorated over three years and was prepared to put up tents as a field hospital to ensure safety.
A similar measure had been floated during the 16 February incident, but was not deployed.
According to national guidelines, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is expected to deal with 95% of patients who attend A and E within four hours, but the BBC understands on 16 February it dealt with 47% in four hours.
The trust said there had been a meeting between the parties.
Increases in patients coming through emergency departments, it said, and a higher than expected number of “seriously ill patients arriving by ambulance every day” meant “periods of considerable pressure”.
A statement said: “We have not been able to accept patient handovers from ambulance colleagues as promptly as we would have wanted.
“We also recognise that the experience of patients in some of these areas was not what we would want it to be.”
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