A DAILY Echo campaign calling on the government to scrap tuition fees for student nurses doing their part in the battle against coronavirus has been backed by civic chiefs.

Cllr Dave Shields has said that nurses and care workers are owed a huge debt of gratitude.

The Cabinet Member for a healthier and safer city adds that he is totally behind the Daily Echo campaign to scrap fees for nursing students.

Around 200 nursing students at the University of Southampton are among those who have stepped up to perform frontline duties in hospitals.

Despite, putting their own lives at risk to look after patients they are still having to scrape together more than £9,250 to pay course fees.

Yesterday, the Daily Echo urged the government to scrap tuition fees for academic year 2019/20 for student nurses who have shown their dedication to the NHS by serving in the coronavirus pandemic.

Commenting on the campaign, Cllr Shields said: “I’m totally behind the Echo campaign on scrapping fees for nursing students, but not just those in their final year. We need to return to the bursary system.

He added: “We need to make sure all those nurses and care workers originating from the EU and elsewhere overseas should have a secure future here in our city both in terms of secure and continued employment in our care system and access to decent affordable housing in our City. We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude.”

As previously reported, until 2016-17, students studying a nursing degree received a bursary worth up to £16,454 a year, which was also used to pays tuition fees.

The government scrapped NHS bursaries unexpectedly in 2015 and replaced them with tuition fees and loans. Since then there has been a 23% reduction in applications for nursing courses in England.

It is reportedly a key reason why hospitals began the pandemic critically short of nurses - and why thousands of students have now been rushed to the frontline before finishing courses.

Starting in September nursing students in England will get a £5,000-a-year maintenance grant.

If you agree it is unfair to ask student nurses to pay tuition fees during the fight against coronavirus please sign our petition by visiting the Parliament petitions website on https://petition.parliament.uk/ or clicking the petition link via the online version of this story.