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Teenage pregnancy recording needs more school nurses

Proposals for schools to keep records of teenage pregnancy rates and pupils' obesity and drug problems could fall at the first fence as there are not enough school nurses to implement the scheme.

Unite/Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association is concerned that the proposals from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) could end up as "rhetoric without resources".

Unite/CPHVA, Lead Professional Officer, Cheryll Adams said: "While we are obviously in favour of measures to improve the health of the school-age population, this can't be achieved without a full complement of school nurses."

School nurses understand the complex reasons behind negative health behaviours by adolescents and can intervene sensitively based on their professional training and experience."

Unite/CPHVA is concerned that plans for every secondary school and its cluster of primary schools to have a specialist school nurse in post won't happen by the government's target date of 2010.   

The latest NHS workforce statistics show there has been a 9.6% increase in the number of whole-time equivalent (WTE) school nurses from 815 to 893 in the year up to September 2007. According to the DCSF, there were 3,343 secondary schools in England, as of January 2007.

Cheryll Adams said: "The government's own figures show there is a mountain to climb in terms of school nurse provision, but it is more school nurses who are required here not more pressure on teachers. It is time for the government to insist local healthcare organisations turn the rhetoric of policy into reality."

Unite/CPHVA is also worried that there could be duplication in collecting public health statistics, which is currently carried out by primary care trusts, and that schools could be used as "the whipping boy" by politicians for deep-seated social problems outside their control.