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School nurses 'pivotal' to child mental health

Reaching children with mental health issues can be difficult, but school nurses have a fundamental role, says NHS England’s national mental health director.
school

School nurses have a 'fundamental and pivotal' role to play in ensuring the mental health of children and young people, a senior nurse has said.

Talking to Nursing Standard at the health leaders' conference Confed17 in Liverpool, NHS England national mental health director Claire Murdoch emphasised the need for councils to find room in their budgets for school nurses.

The role falls under the public health budget, which was transferred from the NHS to local authorities in 2013.

Since then, budgets have been under a continual squeeze because of cuts to central government grants to councils.

Best placed

Ms Murdoch, who is chief executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, said her trust and many others still provide school nurses

School nurses have a 'fundamental and pivotal' role to play in ensuring the mental health of children and young people, a senior nurse has said.

school
School nurses have a fundamental role in ensuring the physical
and mental well-being of children. Picture: Tim George

Talking to Nursing Standard at the health leaders' conference Confed17 in Liverpool, NHS England national mental health director Claire Murdoch emphasised the need for councils to find room in their budgets for school nurses.

The role falls under the public health budget, which was transferred from the NHS to local authorities in 2013.

Since then, budgets have been under a continual squeeze because of cuts to central government grants to councils.

Best placed

Ms Murdoch, who is chief executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, said her trust and many others still provide school nurses because of their importance.

‘School nurses have a fundamental and pivotal role to play in mental and physical wellbeing in schools,' she said, adding that her trust runs a six-week bereavement placement for children who have lost parents.

She said school nurses are the ones who are most likely to flag or identify concerns, or be in a position to support a teacher who a child has confided in.

Ms Murdoch was at Confed17 to outline the Mental Health Five Year Forward View programme and to discuss collaboration between commissioners and providers for the mental health of children and young people.

Self-diagnosis

A theme throughout the discussions was how to reach children and young people in education.

NHS Providers director of policy and strategy Saffron Cordery and Ms Murdoch also raised concerns about over-medication, giving examples of adolescents self-diagnosing mental illness through the internet.

Ms Saffron said ensuring support was both available and accessible was key to combating this.

One former service user raised the issue of transition between child and adult mental health services, saying it could be particularly difficult.


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