Almost half of health students are considering quitting their studies because of thousands of pounds worth of debts, according to new research today.
Unison said a survey of 10,000 students across the UK showed most had average debts of almost £7,000, although one in four owed £10,000.
Nursing diploma students starting in a new job owed an average of 40% of their salary in debts and would take seven years to pay it back if they settled at a rate of £100 a month, the report said.
Unison's head of nursing, Gail Adams, said: "This survey has very worrying implications for the future health of the NHS. Students are simply not getting enough financial support. With one third of nurses due to retire in the next 10 years, and the number of health professionals coming from overseas to work in the UK falling, urgent action is needed to avoid a serious skills shortage.
"We are calling on the Government to comprehensively review the current bursary system, including considering a return to paying health students a salary.
"We also need to see increased help for mature students with children, and ethnic minorities, who this survey shows are facing increased financial pressures."