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School nurses in Birmingham face jobs threat

City council budget cuts put school nurse funding under pressure

A ‘significant’ number of school nurses' jobs in Birmingham could be lost due to city council budget cuts.

The authority wants ‘targeted’ care instead of the universal coverage offered by Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

It is not yet clear how many posts will be cut, but the council wants to save between £1.6 million and £2.8 million a year by reducing the budget for discretionary public health services, which include school nursing.

Serving vulnerable children

Trade union Unite is concerned for the future of school nursing in Birmingham. Regional officer Su Lowe said: ‘School nursing, once again, faces the biggest hit to our community


Picture: Alamy

A ‘significant’ number of school nurses' jobs in Birmingham could be lost due to city council budget cuts.

The authority wants ‘targeted’ care instead of the universal coverage offered by Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

It is not yet clear how many posts will be cut, but the council wants to save between £1.6 million and £2.8 million a year by reducing the budget for discretionary public health services, which include school nursing.

Serving vulnerable children

Trade union Unite is concerned for the future of school nursing in Birmingham. Regional officer Su Lowe said: ‘School nursing, once again, faces the biggest hit to our community health services.

‘Unite is concerned for the future of this very British institution, which has served vulnerable school-age children for many decades. Without the school nurses, who will attend to our children’s health and well-being?

‘The occasional measuring of a child’s weight is no substitute for supporting those families with complex needs, such as mental ill-health, child protection and other high-impact issues like female genital mutilation and child sexual exploitation.’

Funding squeeze

An RCN report called The Best Start: The Future of Children’s Health, released in May, says the number of school nurses in England fell 16% between 2010 and 2017, despite the number of school-age pupils rising by 450,000 during that period.

Councils have blamed cuts in school nursing on reductions in central government grants to local authorities.

Responsibility for school nurses switched from the NHS to local councils in 2013, putting the cost of the service under the public health budget.

In 2004, the Department of Health set out a vision to recruit one school nurse per cluster of primary schools and one related secondary school, as outlined in the study Nursing in schools: How school nurses support pupils with long-term health conditions.

Headteachers’ concern

But a 2016 report by the Association of School and College Leaders and the National Children’s Bureau said headteachers were concerned about a lack of provision, despite growing health needs, especially in mental health.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Local authorities are best placed to make choices about services for their community, which is why decisions about public health funding sit with them.

‘We are investing more than £16 billion in local government public health services over the current spending period and will continue to support schools in their duty to make arrangements for pupils with medical needs.’

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