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RCN head: Every school needs a nurse amid mental health crisis



RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair is calling for every school to have its own full-time nurse to help support children’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Her demand comes amid concern over a youth mental health crisis because of lockdown and school closures, as explored in Nursing in Practice’s in-depth look at the cost of coronavirus to children this month.

Dame Donna said: ‘With one in six children and young people experiencing mental health issues, the role of the school nurses has never been more important in assisting them.

‘We also know issues such as obesity and diabetes are increasing. Investing in school nurses can go a long way to reducing the impact of these issues, which can have lifelong consequences.’

Her comments come as part of a manifesto to ‘redefine medicine’ – particularly for children, the elderly and the socially deprived – and make it ‘part of the community’ from the College of Medicine, an integrative health and complementary medicine pressure group.   

The group’s 15 recommendations include increasing focus on public health within primary care and general practice, a UK national curriculum on social prescribing  where people are referred to local, non-clinical services – and a wider range of mind/body approaches within the NHS.

They wrote: ‘[We believe] physical, mental and social health needs to be the focus of all schools. This can only be done with a full-time nurse in every school and on every governing board.’

A chapter of the manifesto, written by Dame Donna and GP Sir Simon Everington, argued that ‘physical, mental and social health needs’ can ‘only be the focus of all schools’ with a ‘full-time nurse in every school and on every governing board’.

Latest NHS Digital figures show school nurse numbers dropped by around a third in the last decade, from 2,967 in November 2010 to 2,060 in November 2020.

Sharon White, chief executive of the School and Public Health Nurses Association (SAPHNA), explained how school nurses supported children during school closures in her blog for Nursing in Practice.