A TORY Care Minister has been accused of making student nurses feel “worthless” after she told one they are “not deemed to be providing a service”.

Helen Whately, the Conservative MP for Faversham, made the comment in a letter in which she says the UK Government has “no plans” to backdate a new £5000 grants for student nurses, many of whom have cut short training to help health services during the coronavirus crisis.

The payments are to be reintroduced later this year after the bursary system for student nurses and midwives was scrapped in England in 2015. But those who completed their courses in the intervening period have called for payments to be backdated so they don’t miss out.

The issue was raised by student nurse Jess Collins, who called on her local MP Tom Pursglove to help. He wrote to Whately, the Care Minister at the Department of Health and Social Care.

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In a response which has gone viral on social media, Whately writes: “The Government has no plans to introduce a scheme that will backdate the offer for students who completed courses in earlier years.

“Student nurses in training are supernumerary and are not deemed to be providing a service. They are required to undertake 2,300 hours of clinical practice to learn the skills necessary for entry to the workforce.

“Whilst they may be performing limited clinical duties, this is under close supervision and they are not being paid to staff hospitals.”

The Tory minister was condemned by politicians, media pundits and members of the public.

Quoting the part of the letter which said student nurses are “not deemed to be providing a service”, Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan said: “This line … has absolutely, and quite understandably, enraged every student nurse in this country. What a kick in the teeth.”

He said of Whately: “Every time she opens her mouth she seems to say something completely disastrous.”

He added: “I wonder how Helen Whately is still in a job. I don’t know what she contributes to anything.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary rebuked the Tory minister.

Jonathan Ashworth said: “What an insult to hard-working student nurses many of whom gave up paid work to be on the frontline answering the call of duty at this time national Covid emergency.

“We should doing all we to support student nurses."

Whately later commented: “The whole country is grateful to student nurses for their heroic work on the NHS frontline during this unprecedented global pandemic.

“Supernumerary status for student nurses is a technical definition created to ensure they have the space and time to learn, and it is widely supported across the nursing profession.

“There is a strong financial aid package for nurses and going forwards we have introduced even further support for nursing, midwifery and many allied health profession students consisting of a £5000 to £8000 grant to help with maintenance and associated study costs, which does not need to be paid back.”