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Children at risk in school due to nursing cuts, RCN warns

Children with asthma, epilepsy and diabetes are at risk in the classroom due to the accelerating loss of school nurses, the RCN warns.
school

Children with asthma, epilepsy and diabetes are at risk in the classroom due to the accelerating loss of school nurses, the RCN warns.

The loss is leaving teachers without vital training and pupils without necessary support, says the college. And if services continue to deteriorate, pupils with health conditions may be unable to attend mainstream school, expert nurses warn.

According to new data published by the NHS this week, more than 550 school nurses have been lost since 2010, almost a fifth (19%) of the total NHS workforce in England.

The fall has gathered pace in recent months, with more than a hundred posts lost so far this year.

Staying safe

The RCN is calling on the government to provide local authorities

Children with asthma, epilepsy and diabetes are at risk in the classroom due to the accelerating loss of school nurses, the RCN warns.

school
The RCN is highlighting the importance of school nurses in helping children
with long-term conditions attend school. Picture: Alamy

The loss is leaving teachers without vital training and pupils without necessary support, says the college. And if services continue to deteriorate, pupils with health conditions may be unable to attend mainstream school, expert nurses warn.

According to new data published by the NHS this week, more than 550 school nurses have been lost since 2010, almost a fifth (19%) of the total NHS workforce in England.

The fall has gathered pace in recent months, with more than a hundred posts lost so far this year.

Staying safe

The RCN is calling on the government to provide local authorities with the funds needed for fully staffed school nursing services, so that every child can attend school safely.

Almost a quarter of children aged 11-15 in England report having a long-term illness or disability, including asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and arthritis. 

The RCN has today highlighted the importance of school nurses in helping children with long-term health conditions to attend mainstream schools.

Right medication

Their role includes ensuring teachers are trained to identify warning signs such as shortness of breath, dizziness or confusion, and to administer lifesaving treatment when necessary, such as an EpiPen or insulin injection.

They also ensure that children have their medication at the right time of day, and that adjustments are made so all children can participate fully in lessons including PE and school trips.

Despite new statutory guidance from the Department for Education in 2014, which stated that all children with health conditions should be supported to go to school, the number of school nurses has fallen from 2,987 to just 2,433 full-time NHS posts in England.

Critical service

RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing Fiona Smith said: 'It would be completely unjust if a child couldn’t participate in school life because of their health condition.

'Every child has the right to an education and it is the government’s responsibility to make that happen.

'With school nurse numbers at their lowest in years, it soon won’t be possible to provide the care these children need within the school environment. Cuts to public health budgets are leaving whole communities without the care they need, and this is limiting the opportunities of thousands of children.

'It's time the government woke up and realised the hugely detrimental impact these cuts are having to our children and our society. School nursing is a critical service and it needs to be treated as such.'


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