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Jeremy Hunt Called A "Hypocrite" For Tweeting "Let's Celebrate Nurses" As Student Bursaries Are Cut

The nursing community was incensed by the health secretary's message on International Nursing Day.

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"Nurses care for our loved ones at some of the most difficult times of their lives. Let's celebrate them!" Hunt wrote, adding the hashtags #InternationalNursesDay and #NHSHeroes.

Nurses care for our loved ones at some of the most difficult times of their lives. Let’s celebrate them! #InternationalNursesDay #NHSHeroes

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However, given the current nursing crisis in the NHS, Hunt's message did not go down well at all, as hundreds of people replied to his tweet with angry calls for him to resign, highlighting the pay pressure nurses have been under since 2010.

One nurse BuzzFeed News spoke to, who preferred not to be named, said she did not feel celebrated at all by the health secretary.

"I feel Jeremy Hunt is trying to hold nurses and student nurses back," she told us. "You can do a job these days on less hours than a nurse and earn more money."

Nurse Colette Bent agreed that she and her colleagues did not feel celebrated.

"I've had a 1% pay rise in the last 5 years, so to put up that pretentious tweet is in my opinion just rubbing our noses in how much he is shafting us," she told us.

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Bent said that in Scotland, where she is based, staffing was in better shape than in England, but that pay conditions were just as bad.

"This whole government does not have it's people's best interests at heart," she said.

This year has seen huge pressures on the nursing workforce.

On Monday, a report brought before the public accounts committee titled Managing the Supply of NHS Clinical Staff in England concluded that "the number of new nurses being trained has not been sufficient to meet increased demand".

This was especially controversial in light of the government's plans to switch bursaries for student nurses to loans. Many believe this will lead to an even bigger recruitment crisis, as potential students could be deterred by the prospect of graduating with more than £50,000 worth of debt.

Danielle Tiplady, a third-year nursing student at King's College London and a campaigner to save the nurses' bursary, told us Hunt's message was "a bit hypocritical" given that "he is posing the biggest risk to the future workforce of nursing by slashing the bursaries".

She also highlighted the pay issues, unsafe staffing ratios, and long working hours that prompted so many others to share their opposition to Hunt's praise.

"I agree that nurses need to be celebrated," Tiplady said. "They are wonderful and I thank them for helping me through my training. But none of Jeremy Hunt's actions have shown he respects us, let alone celebrates our profession."

Anthony Johnson, another student nurse at King's, called out what he saw as Hunt's apparent lack of respect for the nurses.

"As a student nurse entering a profession which has taken a 14% pay cut I'm offended by Jeremy Hunt's 'celebration' of nursing today," he told us.

"Patients are at risk because of the loss of safe staffing and our NHS is crumbling due to underfunding. He should respect the NHS, not just wear its badge."

Gee Brookes, a healthcare assistant hoping to study nursing later this year, said Hunt was "being kind of manipulative hypocritical when he wants future student nurses like myself to pay £50,000 for to train".

Sending good wishes to nurses in the current climate "is a cruel, heartless joke", according to Charli Humm, a student children's nurse. "Day in and day out we are struggling to care for patients because of the cuts to safe staffing and wider care services," she said.

The Department of Health has said changes to nurses' bursaries will create up to 10,000 more training places, as well as bringing "nursing students into line with the arrangements for students undertaking other university degrees".

Health minister Ben Gummer said: "I am determined to expand nurse training places but we can only do that if it is affordable."

Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Laura Silver at laura.silver@buzzfeed.com.

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