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School nurse numbers in UK fall by 30% since 2010

They may be the first person that vulnerable pupils turn to for help, says RCN

They may be the first person that vulnerable pupils turn to for help, says RCN


Picture: Jim Varney

Children will head back to school next month without the nursing care they may need, the RCN has warned.

The college said the number of school nurses has fallen by 30% since 2010, with around 2,100 working among the 32,113 schools in the UK. 

The RCN blamed significant cuts in public health budgets for the dwindling numbers. 

Recognising vulnerable children

The college said school nurses are a vital part of children’s education, and are uniquely placed to recognise the signs of risk-taking behaviour, vulnerable children and those who might be at risk of physical or psychological abuse. 


Fiona Smith. Picture: Neil O’Connor

RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing Fiona Smith said: ‘Such children may not have positive role models, and a school nurse may be the first person they turn to for help.

‘Decision-makers need to learn the lesson that long-term cuts have a life-long impact. It is time that school nurses received the funding they deserve.’

Local government investment

As part of the NHS Long Term Plan released earlier this year, the government promised to invest in services for children, which includes ensuring that mental health support is provided in schools and colleges. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said funding provided to local government was supporting the ‘vital role’ of school nurses.

‘Local authorities are best placed to make decisions for their communities, and we are giving councils more than £16 billion to commission public health services, including school nurses, over the current five-year spending review period between 2015 and 2020.’ 


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