Workloads hampering school nurses' ability to help pupils with long-term conditions

Increased workloads are causing school nurses to lose confidence in their ability to help support pupils with long-term health conditions.
School nurse

Increased workloads mean the majority of school nurses lack confidence in their ability to provide essential support to pupils with long-term health conditions.

Research by the National Children’s Bureau found workloads and having to work across numerous schools meant nine out of 10 school nurses were less confident in helping children with conditions such as diabetes and asthma.

The Nursing in Schools study polled 344 school nurses – representing one in eight of England's total school nursing workforce – and looked at five prevalent long-term health conditions: asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, anaphylaxis and eczema.

The research revealed:

  • 73% felt confident or very confident supporting pupils with asthma.
  • 82% were confident in treating anaphylaxis.
  • 42% were confident with diabetes.
  • 40% work across 10 or more schools.
  • 90% say high workloads and limited time and resources challenged their ability to support children.

The research also indicated a lack of understanding among parents about the role of the school nurse, and that poor communication with parents was a barrier to them supporting children.

Responding to the findings, RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing Fiona Smith said: ‘School nurses support all children to live healthy lives, both physically and emotionally, however, as workforce numbers plummet, there are limits to how much they can do.

‘There must be more nursing staff in schools – and fast – if we are to tackle any of the mounting health issues facing children today.’

Published report

The report follows a review published earlier this month by the children's commissioner for England, which found that school nurses were spending too much time on paperwork and potentially missing cases of neglect or abuse.

In August, the RCN highlighted how school nursing numbers had fallen by 13% since 2010. This means there are now 2,606 school nurses left in England, compared with 2,995 in 2010.

The National Children's Bureau report makes a number of recommendations including:

  • Sufficient public health funding for local authorities to commission more nurse posts.
  • Councils providing more information on the role of school nurses for parents, pupils and staff.
  • The Department of Health, Public Health England and Health Education England should increase training for school nurses.

Further information

Nursing in Schools report

Shrinking school nursing workforce 'hampering efforts to tackle FGM'

School nurses could overlook abuse due to paperwork burden’