Hundreds of nurses 'hit by student loan errors'

Nursing student Ewout Van Sabben Image caption Ewout Van Sabben has been told he was overpaid £5,000

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."

Dropping out?

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.

Image caption The summary Ewout received

"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....

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Worcestershire Royal Hospital's ambulance wait 'catastrophe'

Worcestershire Royal Hospital A&EImage copyright Google Maps Image caption The hospital faces "catastrophe" over ambulance delays, it has been warned

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.

Image copyright PA Image caption An ambulance boss complained about more than 215 ambulances spending more than an hour outside the site

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.

'Field hospital'

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[1].

According to national guidelines[2], 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."...


  1. ^ but was not deployed (
  2. ^ According to national guidelines (
  3. ^ A&E:People on beds 'as far as you could see' (

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How I saw Stephen Hawking's death as a disabled person

Stephen Hawking speaks at the Langham Hotel on January 14, 2010 in Pasadena, California.Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Stephen Hawking's work led many to become interested in astrophysics

Stephen Hawking was a renowned scientist famed for his work on black holes and relativity.

He published several popular science books such as A Brief History of Time.

Professor Hawking was also a wheelchair user who lived with motor neurone disease from the age of 21.

Yes, he was an award-winning scientist, but a lot of the coverage after Prof Hawking's death has created a narrative of an "inspirational" figure who was "crippled" by his condition and "confined to a wheelchair".

As a disabled person, I've found this discourse troubling and somewhat regressive.

I'm tired of being labelled an 'inspiration'

Stephen Hawking's death has reminded me why I'm tired, as a disabled person and a wheelchair user, of being labelled an inspiration just for living my everyday life.

Prof Hawking was an extraordinary scientist and an incredibly intelligent human being.

However, many disabled people, myself included, would take issue with calling him an "inspiration" as this term is often used in popular society to belittle disabled people's experiences.

I am fine with my friends and family members calling me "inspirational".However, I get labelled it by random strangers, who hardly know me and just see the wheelchair and my condition (cerebral palsy, which means I use a wheelchair), not the person.

People with disabilities are often framed as either inspirational (say, a Paralympic athlete) or scroungers (people to be cared for or, worse, demonised) by the media and on television screens.

Our everyday experiences are neither heroic nor those of scroungers:it's just life as we know it.

More role models, please

Kids in the playground of my Merseyside primary school would compare me, probably the only young wheelchair user they had encountered, with the "genius" that was Stephen Hawking.

This was not an entirely fair comparison, I must say.

To me what this showed, even from a young age, was that there was a lack of "people like me", disabled people in the public spotlight, people I could aspire to be like.

I can think of four or five disabled people who were in the public spotlight when I was growing up early part of the last decade:David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary who is blind, Stephen Hawking, and two Paralympic athletes, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Ade Adepitan.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Stephen Hawking lived with motor neurone disease from the age of 21.

Prof Hawking showed that, despite public perceptions of what a disabled person can do, people with disabilities can achieve amazing things.

Even today, there are still too few disabled people out there in the public eye on a daily basis who are relatable for ordinary disabled people growing up.

If you're a sporty individual, there are Paralympic and disability sport stars.However disability representation on screen in the media and in society as a whole is low, despite the fact that disabled people make up almost one in five of the population, according to the UK government's Family Resources Survey.[3]

All too often, they are categorised using able-bodied people's terminology as "inspiring" or "confined to a wheelchair" by illness or otherwise - rather than language based on their own experiences.

Watch your words (and your memes)

Image copyright @MitchellToy Image caption An Australian artist, Mitchell Toy, posted an image of Stephen Hawking leaving his wheelchair, which some say is offensive

For me, the most troubling moment in the reaction to Prof Hawking's death was when an image of him standing out of his wheelchair went viral on social media.

What this image suggested was a rather damaging trope:the disabled person should always seek to not use a wheelchair, rather than the impairment being something positive to reflect and work with.

Society still seeks to create an image of a disabled person's life as pitiable or a burden on society.This can be incredibly damaging to a disabled person's mental health and their perception of themselves.

Class matters

Image copyright AFP Image caption Professor Hawking was a fellow at Cambridge's Gonville and Caius College for 52 years

One cannot ignore the role of class, race and gender privileges when it comes to disability as these are often intertwined.

Professor Hawking was first diagnosed with motor disease at the age of 21 and given a very short time to live.

However, prior to that, his experience had been one of an able-bodied upper middle-class male who studied at Oxford.

As my colleague Alex Taylor wrote for the New Statesman in 2014, Prof Hawking's social class and that he became disabled at 21 meant that he was afforded opportunities[5] that would not have been given to a disabled person in his era who was born with their condition.

Often, the biggest barrier to a disabled person's advancement in society can be low expectations in the education system.

I grew up on Merseyside in northern England and went to a mainstream primary school and a comprehensive secondary school on a former council estate.I was sometimes advised to take "easier" subjects on account of my disability.

Fortunately, I persisted:I studied the subjects I wanted to.I went on to university and to get my dream job here at the BBC.


Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionDream unlocked:I recently reported for the BBC on Tube access in London

Only 44,250 of over 400,000 students declared a disability when starting their degree courses in 2015-16[6], the Higher Education Funding Council reported.

When you consider that there are 13.3m disabled people in the UK, that's a very low number.

Social class is still a significant contributor to determining the life chances of disabled people, something that Prof Hawking's death has brought home for me....

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