School nurse investment key to tackling child mental health crisis – RCN

Survey reveals school nurses are weighed down by workload

Urgent investment in school nursing is required to tackle a crisis in child mental health, says the RCN.

At least three children in every classroom is affected by mental health problems, according to the Centre for Mental Health charity.

Now an RCN survey of school nurses reveals many are struggling to cope with increasing workloads, and say they are spending more time on admin than caring for children in need.

Shrinking workforce

Less than 1% of total NHS funding is spent on young people’s mental health, while a 10% fall in the number of school nurses in England since 2010 means there are now just 2,700 nurses to more than nine million pupils.

The RCN survey of 277 school nurses also found:

  • 68% said there are insufficient school nursing services in their area
  • 70% are struggling to cope with their workload
  • 28% work over their contracted hours every single day
  • 30% said admin – rather than direct contact with children – took up most of their time
  • 39% have insufficient resources to do their jobs effectively
Early intervention

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said school nurses are perfectly placed to identify potential problems and initiate early mental health intervention.

‘There are huge variations in care across the country and far too many vulnerable children are just not getting the support they need,’ she added.

‘School nurses have the skills and the experience to provide a wide range of mental health support, from counselling to promoting healthy lifestyles. But, as our survey shows, there are too few of them, and they are simply too stretched.’

A recent Centre for Mental Health report found there is an average 10-year delay between young people first experiencing symptoms and receiving help.